Citizens must be responsible for their actions

Published 10:19 am Friday, April 21, 2017

The City of Winchester is considering a proposal that would hold accountable citizens who are deemed to be causing a “public nuisance” and wasting valuable taxpayer dollars.

Although a proposal like this would need to be administered with great caution, we believe this nuisance ordinance makes a lot of sense and addresses the critical issue of the same addresses showing up in the police reports day after day, week after week.

The ordinance, which is based on a similar version in place in Fayette County, defines a nuisance as a situation where law enforcement has either arrested or issued a criminal citation more than twice within a 12-month period for activity such as assault, sexual offenses, gambling or any felony.

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Enforcement would be handled the city’s administrative hearing board. Penalties for violations could be an order to close or vacate the premises or financial penalties ranging from $500 to $5,000.

This may sound harsh, but the reality is that offenses like these cost taxpayers thousands of dollars each year. The desire to address these issues came directly out of community conversations during the downtown master planning process.

This is certainly not something to be taken lightly, but we feel it is a move in the right direction.

We have long been a proponent of stronger code enforcement when it comes to property maintenance, violations and cleaning up eyesores throughout the community. This takes it even farther by requiring that individuals who place a disproportionate burden on public services be held accountable and pick up their share of those costs.

We applaud the city for considering it but also appreciate our elected officials for doing their due diligence in vetting the concept and the implementation process.

The next step will be to create a committee with representation from law enforcement, the code enforcement office and county government to continue to analyze the idea.

A nuisance ordinance could help remove bad elements from the city, or at the very least ensure they are being held accountable for their actions.