The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday March 27th

Police may seize property due to illegal activity

A fatal shooting in Carrboro last month might have been the last straw for police.

After the shooting left one person dead and another injured on Dec. 20 at 105 Wesley St., the Carrboro Police Department is considering seizing the house using a law that allows police to acquire places considered nuisances to the public good.

Before becoming the site of the deadly shooting, Carrboro police responded to 18 other calls to the house in 2013 and 48 since 2009.

“105 (Wesley St.) has been on fire this past year with criminal activity,” said Capt. Chris Atack, a spokesman for the police.

Under North Carolina’s nuisance abatement statute, police have the right to seize a property if it is being used for various illegal activities ranging from prostitution to the illegal possession or sale of lewd material.

A resident of the home at 105 Wesley St. declined to comment.

According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, 30 to 40 properties are investigated each year under this statute in N.C.

Atack said reports of the possession and sale of controlled substances and continuous disruptions of the peace, including multiple assault reports, led the police to consider invoking the law.

“The house has proven to be a continuing threat to the community,” said Atack, “so we’re attempting to find options to get to the root of the issues.”

Atack said that in his 15 years with the Carrboro Police Department, they have never seized a property using the nuisance abatement statute.

In order for the police to seize the home, they must first bring a case to court in Orange County where the residents would have the opportunity to defend themselves to keep the property.

If a judge approves the seizure of the residence, it would then be given to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, who would have the option to repurpose or sell the property.

The statute does not say the county is obligated to provide or assist with finding another residence for the occupants of a seized residence.

Atack said that while he is not incredibly familiar with the process, the police have begun an investigation to gather information for the possibility of a hearing.

The police department is also exploring other ways to address the activities at the house. Atack said they might wait until after the residents’ pending criminal hearings, unrelated to the shooting, to determine if the measure is still necessary.

“It’s too early for me to say definitively how we will go forward at this time,” Atack said.

Regardless of the tactic used, Atack said there is one driving purpose behind any action taken.

“Our goal is to get the criminal activity at the house stopped,” Atack said. “We just want to eliminate what we believe is a continuing threat to the community.”

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