September 30, 2014

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Medina police to combat drugs by cracking down on loiterers, litterers

In April, police arrested 22-year-old Gregory Prince, of Cleveland Heights, in connection with the suspected drug-related shooting of Jose Algarin, 32, in one of the Union Square apartments. Prince was charged with attempted murder and felonious assault. If convicted, he faces up to 14 years in prison. In response to the shooting, Berarducci, Ward 1 Councilman Brian Hilberg and the Union Square management met two months ago to address the increased drug activity in the apartment complex. (DAVID KNOX / GAZETTE)

A suspected drug-related shooting in April at Union Square apartments led Medina police Chief Patrick Berarducci, Ward 1 Councilman Brian Hilberg and the Union Square management to meet two months ago to address the increased drug activity in the apartment complex. They decided to enforce the “broken windows” theory — the idea that aggressively enforcing building codes, littering and trespassing laws reduces more serious crime. (DAVID KNOX / GAZETTE)

Andrew Davis and David Knox | The Gazette

Medina police say doing little things is the key to solving a big problem: helping to keep heroin out of the city’s subsidized housing neighborhoods.

Police have adopted the “broken windows” theory — the idea that aggressively enforcing building codes, littering and trespassing laws and other quality-of-life regulations reduces more serious crimes.

A “Notice to Visitors” along the streets in the Union Square apartment complex announces the crackdown:

“If you are in the parking lot or other common areas of the property and are not accompanied by a resident, you are trespassing.”

Another sign describes “Operation H.A.L.T.” — short for Help Arrest Loiterers & Trespassers: “Certain people have been banned from Union Square property. A list of these people is in the office. They are subject to arrest if found here. If you see anyone here who is on this list please call the MEDINA POLICE DEPT. at 725-7777.”

Police Chief Patrick Berarducci said the crackdown is aimed at drug dealers and other criminals — many from outside the area — who are preying on some of the city’s neighborhoods, including the Union Square Apartments, which provides subsidized apartments for low-income tenants.

Signs posted at the entrance to the Union Square apartment complex state that loitering and trespassing will not be tolerated. Medina officials have announced a crackdown on violations of building codes, littering and trespassing laws and other quality-of-life regulations in an effort to reduce drug trafficking and violence.

Signs posted at the entrance to the Union Square apartment complex state that loitering and trespassing will not be tolerated. Medina officials have announced a crackdown on violations of building codes, littering and trespassing laws and other quality-of-life regulations in an effort to reduce drug trafficking and violence.

“We started with Union Square apartments — in the past one of our biggest problem areas,” Berarducci said.

In April, police arrested 22-year-old Gregory Prince, of Cleveland Heights, in connection with the suspected drug-related shooting of Jose Algarin, 32, in one of the Union Square apartments. Prince was charged with attempted murder and felonious assault. If convicted, he faces up to 14 years in prison.

In response to the shooting, Berarducci, Ward 1 Councilman Brian Hilberg and the Union Square management met two months ago to address the increased drug activity in the apartment complex.

“I want to revitalize that neighborhood,” Hilberg said. “It was one of the major reasons I ran for Council.”

Mayor Dennis Hanwell said he supported the crackdown at Union Square.

“The goal of the subsidized housing program is to provide a safe and secure environment for the families, not to subsidize drug-trafficking,” the mayor said.

Berarducci stressed the “broken windows” project depends on strong support from the neighborhood.

The idea of “zero tolerance” for seemingly minor violations was introduced in 1982 by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in an Atlantic Monthly article.

“Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside,” Wilson and Kelling wrote.

The “broken windows” theory gained prominence in the 1990s when New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani named William J. Bratton as police commissioner to implement the strategy across the city.

Berarducci said a key to the success of the program is analyzing crime data to determine which neighborhoods to focus on.

“One of the advantages of our technology is we can easily identify problem units and problem people,” he said.

The chief said police are working closely with the management of Union Square, 308 W. Union St., to implement the program.

“It’s all about focusing your manpower in a coordinated way,” Berarducci said. “We meet regularly with their management team.”

The chief said police and management are working together by using trespass notices and evictions to remove problem people from the property and then supporting the area with concentrated enforcement.

“As we remove the shooters and problem makers and drug dealers, that community is getting stability,” Berarducci said.

As evidence of success, Berarducci pointed to five heroin- or crack-cocaine-related arrests at Union Square since July 1:

• Dwight E. Tuttle, 39, of Maple Heights, charged with possession of heroin, a fourth-degree felony.

• Bridgett Tuttle, 28, of Medina, charged with permitting felony drug abuse, a fifth-degree felony.

• Kathleen M. Gray, 33, of Medina, charged with trafficking in drugs (crack-cocaine), a fourth-degree felony.

• Charrell B. Reed, 21, of Cleveland, charged with trafficking in heroin in the vicinity of a juvenile, a fourth-degree felony.

• Tysean Gaston, 27, of Cleveland, charged with trafficking in heroin in the vicinity of a juvenile, a fourth-degree felony.

Contact reporter Andrew Davis at (330) 721-4050 or adavis@medina-gazette.com. Contact David Knox at (330) 721-4065 or dknox@medina-gazette.com.