Nuisance ordinance approved, added to town charter

by Geoff Fox

Town officials unanimously amended a portion of the Code of the Town of Hancock during last Wednesday’s town meeting with an ordinance regarding excessive use of police services. The ordinance takes effect 20 days after passage, which would be Tuesday, October 2.

The ordinance has been in the works for the last couple months after a landlord had approached officials in June voicing concerns about renters. Police Chief Rich Miller brought a rough draft of the ordinance was brought to officials the following month.

Mayor Ralph Salvagno said he wanted to make sure the costs of the nuisance “reflecting these are costs above and beyond what we would normally spend for any other call.”

He also wanted the public to know there is nothing in the ordinance that would discourage anyone from reporting domestic incidents.

Domestic violence or personal violence calls are not included in the ordinance, the mayor added.

Instead, the nuisances include disorderly conduct, drug abuse, drunk in public, “all that crap you do over and over again.”

“But if someone is in danger, they should never feel this is designed to prevent them from calling or discourage them from calling,” Salvagno said.

The ordinance also provides the landlord or property owner a chance to dispute the nuisance claim.

There is a scale of type of property and how many qualifying calls each is allowed over a 12-month period.

For example, a residential property has a minimum of three qualifying calls, or two if at one constitutes as a felony under Maryland law.

The number of qualifying calls goes up as the type of property changes, such as a multi-unit residential property, apartment complex, or hotel/motel.

Property owners of such nuisance locations would be fined $100 for the first qualifying call, $250 for the second, and $500 for the third or subsequent call.

The ordinance also allows for town officials to change the fees over time without needing to change the ordinance.

In his police report, Miller said there were 29 incidents of 911 hang-ups in August. The incidents were from one location because a phone had gotten stuck for two weeks and continued to dial 911.

Under the ordinance, he said that would not qualify as a nuisance.