Illegal drinking, drug dealing, trespassing and the brandishing of firearms are a common occurrence in one Richmond neighborhood, according to two residents who asked the city commission for help Tuesday night.
East Irvine Street resident Michael Wooten told officials of raucous public gatherings near his home practically every Friday and Saturday night.
According to Wooten, patrons of a nearby night spot regularly gather outside his home, littering the area with beer and liquor containers, smashing bottles against his house, parking their vehicles on private property, fighting and even threatening him with guns.
In addition, one woman apparently sells pints of liquor out of her purse, while another man sells homemade alcohol by the cup, Wooten said.
The trouble began approximately four years ago after Wooten bought his property near a then closed nightclub. After the nightclub reopened, approximately a month after Wooten moved in, public drinking, noise, trespassing and occasional violence became regular occurrences on weekends, he said. Wooten identified the business as the Magic Moment.
Wooten has recorded some 8,000 hours of video footage and presented some of it to police, but he said the problem has continued. He asked for extra patrols in the area, saying that several laws are routinely broken, including ordinances prohibiting public intoxication, drug trafficking, open alcohol containers, assault and battery, loitering, trespassing and littering.
On four occasions, according to Wooten, party-goers even brandished firearms and told him to get back into his house after he complained. The gatherings begin around 11 p.m. and run as late as 2:30 or 3 a.m., and they can draw between 20 and 80 people, Wooten said. Only rainy weather seems to discourage them, he added.
At one point during his remarks, Wooten alleged responding officers had made a surprising claim. According to Wooten, the officers said they had been instructed to not enforce the law in that neighborhood.
Mayor Jim Barnes then called Richmond Police Chief Larry Brock to come forward and asked if Wooten’s statement was true. In response, Brock stated unequivocally that no officer had ever been instructed to not enforce the law. He did say that the area in question – near Irvine and Orange streets – is a trouble spot.
“I would agree there’s a significant problem there,” Brock said. “He (Wooten) does have valid complaints. It is a troublesome area.”
Brock said that law enforcement in that particular situation is challenging because of two factors. First, police officers cannot cite violators for misdemeanor offenses unless they witness the offense. By the time officers arrive on the scene, perpetrators are either gone, or they are no longer breaking the law, the chief said.
Secondly, Brock said the police department does not have the resources to station an officer in the neighborhood to catch violators in the act, since Friday and Saturday nights are typically busy, and police units are answering other calls.
But Roger Faulkner, who owns an apartment complex on Orange Street, questioned that explanation. “If it was your street, you’d have a cop there,” Faulkner told Brock. “This is an issue. Someone will get killed.”
Brock explained that the problems in the neighborhood are caused by people coming in from other cities, such as Lexington or Detroit. However, Brock suggested that Faulkner could draft a letter giving police explicit permission to remove trespassers from his Orange Street property.
Following the public meeting, both Wooten and Rogers consulted further with the police chief, mayor and City Manager Jimmy Howard, with Brock vowing to work with the men to address the problems.