NEW PORT RICHEY - City officials hope a proposed nuisance abatement ordinance will target the hangouts for drug pushers, prostitutes, gang members and pill-mill operators.
"It's a huge, huge step," Councilman Jeff Starkey said. He focused on the nuisance issue earlier this year, during his city council campaign.
Nuisance abatement would send a message that New Port Richey no longer will harbor addicts, prostitutes or criminals, Starkey said.
"I don't want my kids to see it," Starkey said of prostitutes trolling up and down U.S. 19 inside the city limits.
City police and the Pasco Sheriff's Office have conducted a number of undercover operations targeting the sex trade along U.S. 19. The latest, in late May, saw 10 women arrested on prostitution charges and six men nabbed for soliciting prostitution.
"Let's go for it," Councilman Chopper Davis, who like Starkey was elected to the council in April, said about adopting the anti-nuisance rules.
The council is scheduled to apply finishing touches to the ordinance at its Tuesday meeting.
Dealers in stolen property are mentioned in the proposed ordinance as well, along with purse snatchers. The city would hire a special magistrate to hear nuisance abatement cases, according to the draft ordinance.
The threshold for a chronic nuisance would be two violations cited within a six-month period, although council members could choose to shorten the period of time.
The city manager would give at least three days' notice to an owner before declaring property nuisance and sending the case to the special magistrate. If the magistrate finds a nuisance exists, he or she could order closing all or part of the premises. The order would expire within a year.
The ordinance draft mentions fines ranging from $250 to $500 per day, plus costs. For technical reasons related to enforcement, however, city council members might delete references to the specific fine amounts.
In April, Mayor Bob Consalvo said roughly half the complaints he receives are about crime.
Too many places in the city have become hangouts for prostitutes, drug abusers and criminals, Starkey said during his first council meeting. This could stymie the city's efforts to lure more residents and businesses, he said.
The city is going to great lengths trying to reopen the Hacienda at some point, Starkey said. Nobody would want to go there, however, if there are lawbreakers loitering outside the historic former downtown hotel, he said.