Owners could pay for police calls

Bellevue will take a second stab at regulating nuisance properties in the borough with the pending adoption of an “excessive calls” ordinance.

The ordinance being considered by Bellevue Council authorizes the borough to charge the owners of properties to which police are called more than twice in a 30-day period. Unlike similar ordinances adopted by area towns, however, Bellevue’s proposed law makes it clear that people who are reporting crimes -- including domestic violence and child abuse -- will not have to worry about the ordinance being used against them.

Instead, the new law would charge property owners $100 for every call over two during a month in which police are called to a specific address to deal with disorderly residents or problems with alcohol or drug use.

Solicitor Tom McDermott said the ordinance is designed to eliminate “frat house” type properties where the owner is ignoring the fact that the occupants are disturbing the neighborhood.

Property owners who do not pay the fees can be cited for a summary offense.

The proposed ordinance sounds a lot like the “nuisance tenant” ordinance adopted by council several years ago. That ordinance fined landlords who did not evict tenants who were causing disturbances.

Police Chief Matt Sentner said that there were concerns about the legality and enforceability of the nuisance tenant ordinance, which imposed criminal penalties on a landlord because of the conduct of a tenant.

In contrast, the excessive calls ordinance imposes a fee for police services, although it does impose a criminal penalty for failing to pay the fee.

Sentner said the excessive calls ordinance is definitely a tool that can be used by the Bellevue Police Department, especially at several rental properties where the landlords are not particularly conscientious when choosing their tenants.

“We get rid of one bad tenant, we get someone even worse,” Sentner said.

The chief said that the excessive calls ordinance most likely would be used as a last resort when all else fails to stop public disturbances at a particular property.

The ordinance was been brought up on the first of three required readings at Tuesday’s regular council meeting.