By Ed Runyan
Drug investigators and Warren officials expanded their use of Ohio’s nuisance-abatement laws Thursday, raiding a home on Wick Street Southeast where police have observed drug activity.
After police made two arrests about 8 a.m., Warren Operations Department workers arrived with panels of wood used to board up the structure.
The board-up effort came courtesy of a temporary restraining order approved by Judge W. Wyatt McKay of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court that prevents anyone from entering the home until after a 9 a.m. June 17 hearing at the county courthouse to allow the parties to argue the home’s fate.
Arrested at 2345 Wick was Carl Foster, 57, and Antonio Stubbs, 27, on drug-possession charges after police found suspected heroin, pills and guns inside the home.
A video camera was imbedded into the corner of the kitchen, pointed at a side door that police said was used for drug dealing. Police broke down the reinforced front door to conduct the raid.
It followed a two-month investigation carried out by the county’s chief narcotics unit — Trumbull Ashtabula Group Law Enforcement Task Force — in which undercover heroin buys were carried out. Foster was part of the drug buys, TAG said in documents filed with the court.
Foster also was convicted of two counts of heroin trafficking in August 2011 after TAG conducted an earlier drug investigation at the home. He spent one year in prison resulting from that investigation, but returned to the home last August after being released from prison.
Capt. Eric Merkel of the Warren Police Department, who becomes Warren police chief later this month, said the nuisance-abatement approach was undertaken in this case with the help of Traci Rose, assistant Warren law director, who has been working closely with the police department the last four months in a new role.
Merkel said trying to have the home declared a nuisance is an approach the city hasn’t used in about 10 years, but the Wick Street address gave police a good reason to use it because of the amount of disruption the drug dealing has caused the neighborhood.
Neighbors reported the home as a nuisance, officials said.
Travis Dickmann, who lives across the street from 2345 Wick, said he keeps his children in the backyard when they are outside because of the dangers at the suspected drug house.
“They did drugs right out in front. They don’t care,” Dickmann said. There also have been times when guns have been fired into the air for no apparent reason, he said.
“That place did not sleep,” he added. “Two, three in the morning, and the music is blaring,” he said, adding that cars were always coming and going at the home.
The home also is fairly close to three schools — Warren City Schools’ Willard K-8 School, Warren John F. Kennedy High School, and a Summit Academy school.
Officials at Warren Municipal Court said Foster and Stubbs likely are to be arraigned today in Warren Municipal Court. As of Thursday, both were charged with felony drug possession. Both men listed the home as their address.
Documents indicate the home is owned by Annie M. Foster of Canton, mother of Carl Foster, who formerly lived at the home.
Rose said officials met with Annie Foster in March and warned her that a nuisance-abatement complaint would be filed if she couldn’t put a stop to the drug dealing at the residence.
One year ago, Warren Law Director Greg Hicks and his office used the nuisance-abatement process to board up eight massage parlors after state officials carried out a yearlong investigation into the businesses and found evidence of prostitution. The result was the parlors agreed last June 25 to close for one year.
The nuisance-abatement law also was used this spring to close up the Rose Spa on state Route 5 in Braceville Township when evidence of prostitution was found there. The owner eventually agreed to never again operate a massage parlor at that location.
Enzo Cantalamessa, Warren safety-service director, said this type of process is only used in extreme situations and requires a great deal of work by city officials.
“You’re taking someone’s house. It’s not done lightly,” he said.
Mayor Doug Franklin said he hopes the action sends a message to others engaged in similar activity. “You’re going to see this continue,” the mayor said.