Official targets drug abuse

East Liverpool and Salem landlords will be told to clean up suspected drug houses.
LISBON -- Columbiana County Prosecutor Robert Herron has launched a major initiative against drug abuse thanks to the strength of a new law.
Authorities boarded up the home Wednesday of Robert Conkle, a former East Liverpool water superintendent, at 414 Ogden St., East Liverpool.
The case is a civil action, not a criminal one. Herron will ask the courts to keep the house boarded up for one year.
The move to board up homes is allowed under a new Ohio law. Herron said it is the first time the law has been used in the county.
Conkle was arrested in a major drug sweep in the county in April 2005. He still faces felony charges of possession of cocaine and possession of a dangerous weapon and seven drug-related misdemeanors.
The civil complaint lists about 40 reported assaults, thefts and drug use or sales at the house from 2000 through 2006.
Herron said after the house was boarded up, Conkle drove to Lisbon with his pets in his vehicle in apparent protest that he had nowhere to go.
Police called in
According to court documents, East Liverpool police were called to Conkle's home about 7:31 a.m. July 6 by a woman who said a screaming woman was running around and threatening people with a butcher knife. Police told Conkle they would try to have his house declared a nuisance. Conkle said he would make everyone leave.
Police responded to five more complaints at or near the house in July 2006. When police said they would board up the house, Conkle indicated he didn't believe them.
Herron said, "I hope a message has been sent."
To expand the crackdown, the prosecutor said that he will notify certain owners or landlords in East Liverpool and Salem to clean up other properties that authorities believe are being used as drug houses.
"If they don't clean them up, we will," Herron said.
And in another move, Herron also will notify local car rental or leasing agencies not to rent or briefly lease vehicles to certain people who may be using the vehicles to deal drugs.
Traffickers, Herron said, will rent or lease vehicles to avoid having their own vehicles confiscated during a drug arrest.

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