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Beth Burger The Columbus Dispatch @abburger
An apartment complex on the city's Near East Side that has been the site of two homicides in seven months has also been the location of several covert police investigations, Columbus officials confirmed this week.
The city is building a nuisance case against the Nelson Park Apartments, which requires specific evidence of criminal activity such as drug violations, prostitution and underage drinking, said Shayla Favor, an assistant city attorney who handles cases in the area that includes parts of Downtown and the Near East Side.
Area residents say they routinely call police about gunfire at the complex, located on Maryland Avenue.
ChristinaPaolucci, who lives near the complex, said she and her husband heard gunfire Tuesday night and called police. On Wednesday morning, they learned that 33-year-old Jermaine Wooden had been killed in an early-morning shooting at the apartments.
"It seems [like] we call at least once a week," she said.
In the past two years, the 177-apartment complex that was built in 1958 had reports of 15 assaults and 11 shootings, six drug complaints and three robberies, and 73 calls were made about shots fired, police records show.
Dana Rose, code enforcement administrator for the city, said there have been 20 complaints and four active cases in the past two years. Most of the cases center on bedbugs, roaches and water leaks.
"Whenever we cite them, they're quick to take action," he said. That prevents the city from taking the owners to the county environmental court.
The apartment complex, which accepts federal rental subsidies from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, rents to elderly residents and families, according to a booklet in the leasing office.
The complex turns away prospective tenants who have members of their household who are "currently engaging in, or has engaged in other criminal activity that would threaten the health or safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other residents."
The same goes for those with "any record of felony or misdemeanor criminal activity," according to the booklet. The complex has rules, but it's unclear how strictly they are enforced.
Neither managers nor the owner,NPA Associates Limited of Beachwood, responded to requests to comment for this story.
"It's in dire need of really strong leasing agreements with their tenants, enforcement of the rules; and what's more tragic is you have people who have to live there because it's economical and they have to be victims of their surroundings," said Columbus PoliceCommander Robert Strausbaugh, who oversees the zone that includes the complex.
Most of the issues associated with the complex come from visitors, Strausbaugh said. If a problem develops in one unit and managers start the eviction process, those problems sometimes crop up a few doors down. Suspected drug dealers are adept at making friends with other residents and setting up shop, he said.
Meetings with community organizations this past summer led to an increased police presence, Strausbaugh said.
In August, 19-year-oldAntoine Bradley was fatally shot outside at the complex.By September, the police bike unit patrolled the area and additional police cruisers were sent to patrol the complex.
"It's just a slow process,"Strausbaugh said.
Neighborhood residents said it's frustrating.
"We have seen no improvement being made by the city or the property owners after many requests,"Paolucci said. "Everybody wants to live in a safe neighborhood, even the tenants.But when you have 73 calls for gunfire in two years, not enough is being done to make this a safe place for anybody to live in."
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