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Landlords get training to spot drug-dealing tenants


Reported By: Erin Calandra
Written By: Marc Stempka

ALTOONA, Pa. -- When it comes to stopping drug activity in area communities, some officials believe the best eyes and ears to watch for crimes may be landlords.

Landlords, police officers and drug investigators gathered for a forum in Blair County Tuesday to give landlords some tips in spotting potential crimes and drug activity on their properties.

Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office Bureau of Narcotics investigator Tony Sassano said landlords can play a big role in helping investigators and can also help keep other crimes from happening.

"They go in the house routinely to do maintenance as required and they could see things there that would help us do our jobs," Sassano said. "They would see these signs of any activity. They could see the weapons [or] they could see they drug paraphernalia lying around."

Altoona landlord Larry Weaver attended the Operation Our Town-sponsored forum and said he knows firsthand problems some tenants can bring.

"I went to the tenant which obviously didn't see anything in the house that was opened, but I informed him that I was notifying all other tenants in that building that I'd asked the police to make drive-by [patrols] more frequent because I know there was some activity going on in the alley," Weaver said.

The tenant involved in the suspected drug dealing moved out, Weaver said. But officials said just a smallest amount of drug activity can drag a community downward.

"Burglaries, thefts, assaults, things of that nature," Sassano said. "As a result of [a] house having one drug dealer in it, it just mushrooms into a big side effect for a lot of other types of criminal activity."

Despite the potential criminal activity and crimes, Sassano said evicting someone can take months and leave the property owner out of thousands of dollars.

Sassano said landlords should be looking for a lot of foot traffic around their properties as a possible sign for illegal activity. That also includes cars stopping for short visits and a tenant who doesn’t seem to hold a job.

"[Landlords] might be getting that $400 to $500 in their pocket while their property is depreciating in value," Sassano said.

Officers said above all else, if a landlord suspects there is illegal activity or sees something suspicious to call their local police department.

Landlords get training to spot drug-dealing tenants

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