New Ordinance to Fight Crime in Wilkes-Barre

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WILKES-BARRE -- With seven homicides in Wilkes-Barre so far this year, the mayor is proposing changes to an ordinance that would affect landlords and tenants.

Charlie Norton has lived in Wilkes-Barre with his wife for 40 years. He owns his house and rents out the unit next to him. He says he's tough on tenants.

"They lie to get in, and then when I find out, I'm right next door. I find out. I tell them they got to go," said Norton.

But not every landlord is like Norton. That's why Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton is proposing to update a city ordinance. The city now has a three strike rule. That means there are three chances for a tenant to stay in an apartment if he or she is arrested for narcotics or illegal weapons.

Now the city will vote to change that. One drug or weapon offense and you could be out of your apartment for six months.

"We are not looking to punish property owners. We're trying to keep up their property, recruit good tenants, and improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods," said Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton.

In that six months, the space would be declared uninhabitable. That means no tenants and no rent checks for landlords. The city hopes this will force landlords and tenants to be more responsible.

Angela Diaz lives in the city and hopes the ordinance will help.

"You'll know where you're going when you go there because the landlords are going to be more strict as to who they rent their properties to," said Diaz.

Mayor Leighton says the police chief has doubled its anti-crime unit in the city. Since July 12, he says they've made 33 drug, weapon and prostitution arrests, including this drug arrest earlier this week.

Charlie Norton hopes the unit will enforce this new ordinance if passed.

"Years ago, if you didn't keep your property up, you would be arrested. You'd get a $500 fine and back and forth. Nobody does nothing," said Norton.

Wilkes-Barre City Council will vote twice on the ordinance, the first time at Tuesday night's meeting. If it passes, it will likely go into effect sometime next month.

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