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There’s No Business like Snow Business

August 3rd, 2014

City Drug Dealers Cashing In after Mazzeo Dismissal

Drug deal - a common sight on Sunbury city streets

A Common Sight on City Streets

Following the ill-advised and rash removal from office by the mayor of our popular, experienced and effective Chief of Police, Steve Mazzeo, drug dealers are flocking to Sunbury PA like never before.

Many new faces are to be seen on our streets. The word is out – our under-manned and under-resourced police department, still struggling to come to terms with the loss of their leader, and with a new chief yet to find his feet, is being overwhelmed by an unprecedented crime wave – a wave fueled by the activities of these very same drug dealers.

At a time when many local businesses are closing their doors, not only because of the economy but also thanks to the business-hostile environment created by our city administration, the local drug business is booming.

Home invasions, car break-ins, burglaries, robberies, and other violent crimes are keeping our police tied up – and much too busy to deal with the real cause of these activities – drugs. Drug addicts turn to crime in order to finance their habit, and the deeper into it they get then the more money they require.

Exactly What Persing Wanted!

Mayor Persing

Persing – “Success”

According to the Wednesday July 30th Daily Item, mayor Persing was proclaiming his pride on the “success” of his drug dealer’s rental ban. This, he said, “did exactly what he wanted it to do”. Well, the ban appears to have done nothing to quell the trade in drugs. Is this really what you wanted, Mr. Persing?

Drug dealing has been a problem in Sunbury for many years. However, the administration had been largely successful in sweeping it under the rug – that is, until the November 2011 task force drug busts, which netted a substantial number of city residents, many of whom were living in rental properties.

Persing expressed his “outrage”, proclaiming that “we can’t have drug dealers living in the city of Sunbury!” Overnight he announced his cunning plan – one which would entail the erection of signs outside the house of every convicted drug dealer in the City, as well as posting their names on the city’s website.

City approved drug dealer - by order of mayorHe totally failed to realize the obvious – that all he would be doing would be to provide free advertising for these very same drug dealers, as well as severely deflating property values in their neighborhoods! His proposal also reflected his lack of knowledge of the US Constitution. The Eighth Amendment to the Bill of Rights expressly prohibits such “cruel and unjust punishment”.

If he had really wanted to make a start to cleaning up our city, a better first move might have been to put signs outside the homes of corrupt politicians!

New Landlord-Tenant Ordinance

When Plan A was rebuffed, Persing turned to Plan B – a new landlord-tenant ordinance which shifted the onus onto landlords to monitor any criminal activities of their tenants. He acquired a copy of one which had been produced by Berwick to tackle a similar problem – an ordinance which had, at considerable expense, survived an appeal to the PA Superior Court. All he had to do was change the name from Berwick to Sunbury and the City would have a watertight set of rules to clamp down on the activities of drug dealers.

Berwick borough offices

Berwick Borough Offices

However, Persing gutted this document, removing many of its provisions. What was left was a shadow of its former self, but it is this self-same document which was being so loudly trumpeted in the Daily Item this week.

There is but one clause covering the activity of drug dealers in rental properties:

“An individual convicted of any prohibited act under Pennsylvania’s Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, 35 P.S. § 780-101 et seq., where the offense is graded as a felony under § 780-113 of that Act, upon conviction and expiration of any applicable appeal period, shall not be eligible to be listed on an occupancy permit. A convicted illegal substance distributor shall not be eligible to be listed on an annual permit and shall be considered in violation of this City ordinance. Seven years after an individual’s conviction and the expiration of any applicable appeal period, that individual shall be eligible to be placed back on a rental permit, provided that the individual has no additional felony convictions under 35 P.S. § 780-113 during that seven-year period. Failure of the property owner to remove said convicted individual from the occupancy permit shall result in non-renewal of the rental permit.”

Drug Dealers Not Renting Property?

Persing says how pleased he is that “no drug dealers have attempted to rent property in the City”. This being so, his ordinance is working. There is a huge problem with this statement. Drug dealers hardly ever get convicted of drug felonies in Northumberland County. According to then senior judge Robert B. Sacavage, quoted in the Daily Item on November 16th 2011, and referring to arrested drug dealers: “Although many are charged with felonies, charges are often reduced or end in a plea deal.”

So, how is the ordinance supposed to work? If nobody is being charged with drug felonies, let alone charged twice, then there will be no convicted drug dealers around who can be barred from renting property in the city. It would be an interesting exercise for the police to spend more of their time on drug intelligence work, identifying how many rental properties in Sunbury are actually drug houses – certainly much more applicable to citizen safety than being seconded to the Code Office to look for abandoned vehicles in yards around town, as has happened recently.

Code Office Remains “Alert”!

Code office director Ric Reichner

Reichner – Coming Soon to an Abandoned Vehicle Near You!

Both code officer Mike Rhoads and his boss, Ric Reichner, also claimed in the Daily Item that the ordinance was working, and that their department “remains alert” for anyone trying to slip through the cracks. How can this be? The city code office has no capability or authority to carry out background checks on any applicants for rentals. How can they make this claim – that drug dealers, convicted or otherwise are not setting up business in rental properties?

The problem of drug dealer infiltration is not being helped by recent movements in the Sunbury rental property market, where slum lords are taking over as reputable owners move out. Their activities would appear to be a bigger threat to the city than those of their tenants. Would it not be an idea for the City to put some sort of a plan in place to reduce the 54% proportion of rentals to the total number of properties in Sunbury?

Councilman Jim Eister

Councilman Eister

Councilman and major rental property investor Jim Eister was quoted in the Daily Item, January 5th 2012, stating that “We have one of the biggest cities for rentals. We need to get something figured out.” Whatever that something may have been, this subject has not, to our knowledge, been aired since.

What our police department needs right now, in order to combat the drug dealers, are additional full time officers including drug detectives – a request constantly rebuffed by Persing while Mazzeo was chief. Will Hare have any more success in pursuing this objective? We keenly await news of his strategy for cleaning up the city.

Moving “Forward”

Is Sunbury going to change direction and tackle this and the many other serious problems it currently faces – problems which have grown year in and year out ever since Persing’s elevation to mayoral office in 1990, or will we collectively continue to move “forward”, just like a herd of buffalo, being driven ever closer to the looming precipice by our incompetent leadership?

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