Public Nuisance Law (Lockdown)
City of Binghamton Public Nuisance Reform Law
Chapter 315 of the City of Binghamton Code of Ordinances is called the “Property & Building Nuisance Reform Law” but is commonly known as the “Lockdown Law.” The purpose of the Law is to ensure that all properties in the City of Binghamton are safe, to give owners of nuisance properties notice and an opportunity to prevent further problems, and to lockdown those properties that refuse to come into compliance. This page is a brief explanation of the process and how residents can assist the City in addressing nuisance properties.
Citizens play a vital role from beginning to end of the process.
The process begins when citizens report criminal activity in the neighborhood. As residents you are more likely to notice criminal activity; you often observe who is committing a crime and what properties are involved. We need you to share that knowledge with the Police. Please report such properties to firstname.lastname@example.org or the Community Response Team at 607-772-7082 as soon as they become a source of crime in your neighborhood. If you are witnessing a crime in progess, call 911 immediately.
Once a property has been identified as a potential “public nuisance,” the City must review the number and nature of the calls.
The City uses a point system to evaluate the nuisance activities at the property. More serious crimes incur more points. If there are more than 12 points in 6 months or 18 points in 12 months, the City may send a warning letter to the property owner. (For a more detailed explanation of the point system, please click here). The warning letter is the beginning of the legal process.
In order to balance the public interest of removing public nuisances with a property owner’s constitutional rights, the warning letter provides the owner with notice of the nuisance activity and an opportunity to abate the nuisance activity. Upon receipt of a warning letter an owner is required to meet with City officials to discuss how to abate/remove the nuisance activity at the property and is then required to submit an abatement plan in writing. Typically, the abatement period lasts between four (4) and five (5) months to allow the owner to bring the property into compliance and follow the actions proposed in the abatement plan.
How can citizens help during this abatement period?
Keep a journal with dates, times, descriptions of any criminal activity, a description of the people involved and note how they are connected to the subject property.
If an owner fails to abate/remove the nuisance activity, the City may commence an action in Court to have the property declared a “public nuisance.” To commence a Court action, the City files a petition. You may be asked to provide an affidavit describing the effect the nuisance activity has had on you personally, on your property, on your neighborhood, and what you observed both before the warning letter and during the abatement period.
An owner has a right to a trial
While the point system provides a guideline for the City, the Court determines if the property is a “public nuisance.” At a trial the City must present live testimony from police officers and residents with personal knowledge of the nuisance activity to prove that the property is a “public nuisance” by clear and convincing evidence. If the Court determines that the property is a “public nuisance,” the Court may issue a “lockdown” order closing the property for up to one year. A lockdown does not mean that the City takes ownership of the property; it means that the property cannot be occupied.
Residents play a vital role in identifying, documenting, and proving that a property is a public nuisance and the proper subject of a “lockdown” proceeding.