Cities’ Nuisance Control Laws May Penalize Domestic Violence Victims

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Local communities are increasingly passing laws to control crime and nuisances on rental properties. They do so by limiting the number of times police can be called to a residence, NPR reports.

Crime victims, especially victims of domestic abuse, often are the ones who end up being penalized. When the boyfriend of Lakisha Briggs of Norristown, Pa., started abusing her, her daughter called the police. An officer warned Briggs that this was her first strike. “He just was like, we just gonna make sure your landlord evict you. And I’m like, my landlord evict me? For what? Like, I didn’t even do anything,” she says.

Norristown had a nuisance property ordinance. Her landlord could be fined and have his license suspended, if police were called more than three times in four months for “disorderly behavior” unless he evicted his tenant. After that first warning, Briggs was reluctant to call the police when her boyfriend beat her up. But one night, when they got into a fight, he slit her neck open with a broken ashtray. When she woke up in a pool of blood, she didn’t call 911. “The first thing in my mind is let me get out of this house before somebody call,” she says.

The police came when someone saw her bleeding outside. Briggs was airlifted to the hospital. When she returned home, her landlord told her she had to leave. He said he didn’t want to throw her out, but if he didn’t, he’d be fined $1,000 a day.

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