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Waterbury Avenue Crime Scene Was Deemed 'Nuisance' Property Last Week

Police responded to the home eight times in 2011.

In 2011 alone, there were at least eight police visits to 2051 Waterbury Avenue — the location of last Friday’s shooting that left one 17-year-old boy dead and another Cleveland man injured. 

Last week, just two days before the deadly shooting, the police department sent notice to the law department that the property was a “chronic nuisance."

The law department hadn't sent the letter out to the landlord before Friday's shooting.

Charles Wilson, 17, was killed in the shooting at 2051 Waterbury Ave. Friday night, and 20-year-old Frederick Burt was shot in the leg, but treated and released from MetroHealth Medical Center.

But weeks and months before the shooting, the home at 2051 Waterbury Ave. was on the radar of the Lakewood police.

Some of complaints in 2011 included “suspicious activity,” stolen property, domestic violence and loud music.

Chapter 5-10 of the city’s codified ordinances allows the city to fine the property owners in order to resolve a nuisance condition. The city defines the “chronic nuisance” conditions as criminal activity, building problems or noise violations.

The city’s law departments began filing paperwork last week that would have notified the property owner that the home was a nuisance property under the city’s 2008 ordinance. 

Only two complaints are required.

Police involvement

Police Chief Timothy Malley said two arrests usually trigger the nuisance complaint.

“The police chief, detective bureau captain and neighborhood patrol officers review calls for service daily and match which of those calls could fall under the nuisance ordinance,” he said.

The police department notified the law department of the nuisance violation on Jan. 4. 

Here are a few of the calls to the residence in 2011:

  • Dec. 17: Police investigated the report of a stolen phone, a complaint made by someone who didn’t live at the home.
  • Dec. 20: Police responded to a report of loud music. When police arrived, the music was considered loud and officers advised the residents to turn it down.
  • On Dec. 29, there were three separate calls to police about the residence. The first was a report of two women fighting outside the home, when police arrived there was no report of violence and the women had already left. And later in the day, there were two separate reports of “suspicious activity.” “There were calls of cars pulling in and out of the home,” said Kevin Butler, the city’s law director. “A lot of times that equates to drug activity. I won’t say that’s what happened here.” In the second call, police found two men hiding in the basement. They were both arrested — for resisting arrest and providing false information. Neither of the men were residents of the home, nor were they among those arrested in connection with Friday’s shooting.

There were “at least a few” other reports made in 2011, including a domestic violence call — an example of a type of report that doesn’t trigger a nuisance complaint.

"We have to look and qualify the call itself," Malley said. "A domestic violence arrest would probably not qualify. You don’t want to victimize the victim twice."

'Only a matter of time'

A neighbor, who lives near the shooting but asked that his name not be used for this story, has been concerned about the activity at his neighbor’s house. He’s complained to the police “several” times about suspicious behavior at the home.

“There’s constantly people coming and going from there,” he said. “I didn’t feel safe. It was only a matter of time before something happened.”

Issuing a nuisance complaint

The penalty for not fixing the nuisance issue is any future cost of police visits — often costing landlords thousands of dollars in fines, said Butler.

“Sometimes, more responsible tenants will comply,” he said. “If the tenant gets word that the police are looking at the property that closely, sometimes they will change their behavior. But, the most successful way of abating these things, we found, is eviction. We don’t encourage it, but we tell them to figure it out, or we’re going to charge you.”

He said the city hadn’t yet sent out the letter to the property owners.

According to the Cuyahoga County Auditor's Office, Elyria-based Equity Trust Co. owns the property. Attempts to reach the landlord were unsuccessful.

Shooting at 2051 Waterbury Ave.

According to sources, the residents of the home were preparing to move out on Sunday. Then, the shooting broke out on Friday night.

Witnesses said was the result of a violent robbery, however police have not confirmed that information.

The two men were shot at the residence at 9:30 p.m. during a party, said witnesses, who asked not to be identified for this story.

They said an armed man attending the party at the second-floor apartment shot at the men before fleeing the scene.

By Saturday afternoon, were rounded up.

On Monday, , 25, of 1588 Lakewood Ave., was charged with aggravated murder.

Steve January 10, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Ok, the question I have is, who dropped the ball on this one. At least 8 visites in one year, with neighbors calling in their concerns, safety issues were not addressed here. PERIOD.
Kanne January 11, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Lakewood police is FAMOUS for not acting appropriately to "suspicious activity" calls. My neighbors and I have placed several calls on our neighbor. Once I called and all the police did was question a woman who happened to be outside. She provided a false name among other information, and the police never asked for ID. They didn't even bother to go in the house and look for the drugs. Of course there was someone in the residence who had an outstanding warrant from Cleveland! DO NOT FEAR... the police are great for giving kids tickets for jaywalking, however. Way to go Lakewood PD! Your actions are really keeping our city "CLEAN" and safe for us! -Frustrated 45+ year resident
Alex Vandehoff January 11, 2012 at 09:24 AM
Mr. Butler and the LPD have a huge responsibility on their hands here. The way in which these situations are handled MUST be examined and evaluated. I understand the need for a process and a way to keep the LPD operating in an efficient manner, so I won't make sweeping criticisms without knowing all the details. The fact remains, however, that whatever the current protocol is did not work here. All residents must remember that the LPD and Mr. Butler have the opportunity to do the right thing - if they fail to impress then they must be held accountable.
ann January 11, 2012 at 02:25 PM
They are sure quick with the parking tickets for silly things like being 'too far from the curb' but not with fining slumlords who don't take care of their property or care what goes on in it, and not reacting quickly to drug activity making streets unsafe for upstanding citizens and their children. We will be moving out of lakewood before our children start school.

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