Baltimore Fights Drug Dealing on Commercial Property

Having cotenants in your building that you suspect are conducting drug deals can be frustrating. In addition to harming your business, they could be putting you, your employees, and customers in danger. But in Baltimore, Md., officials have filed a bill that gives them the authority to act swiftly when they discover drug dealing at stores and restaurants in the city.

According to recent testimony before a Senate committee, “illicit businesses” continue to operate while the city has to wait more than a month to file a civil action against the property owners and their tenants. The city attorney alleges that the businesses that were the subject of the Senate hearing are more than likely fronts for drug operations. He, like other business owners and residents, voiced their concern about the delay because it gives the general public the impression that nothing is being done about the problem.

When the police make a drug bust at a business, they can file criminal charges and also bring a civil “nuisance abatement” lawsuit. Because the criminal cases take so long to wind their way through court, it is more efficient to seek both remedies. However, the state law requires that prosecutors give commercial building owners and their tenants 45 days notice before filing the civil case. And after hearing the case, a judge can issue anything from an admonishment to an eviction order.

The bill will specifically target businesses that are suspected “fronts” for drug dealing. For example, one lawmaker said that he knows of a local grocery store that operates during normal business hours, but no one ever comes out with a bag of groceries.

If you are experiencing these types of issues and you are not getting any assistance from your owner, you should work closely with law enforcement and document the alleged illegal activity. After you’ve gathered a substantial amount of evidence, you can then present the findings to your city council immediately and demand that they take action.