Winfield targeting illegal drugs, criminal activity in rentals

Winfield officials will help landlords evict tenants if police are called to the rental three times in two years. (WCHS/WVAH)

Big cities and small towns are all fighting the war on drugs. Now a Putnam County city has a new weapon in its arsenal. A new ordinance by Winfield City Council targets drugs and other illegal activity in rental properties.

"Every city has its problems with drugs," Winfield Mayor Randy Barrett said.

Under a new ordinance passed by city council, if police are called to a rental two times in two years for drugs or other illegal activity, the tenant can be fined. Barrett said on the third trip in two years "we can evict them together. We can get with our judge and we can help you evict them."

Martinsburg has a similar law that gives law enforcement another tool in fighting drugs and other crimes.

"We've got a good city here. We've got a safe city here. We're trying to make tools available to keep it that way," Barrett said.

Resident Homer McDaniel said the new ordinance "makes me feel better and a little bit safer."

McDaniel and his family are renters who live in Winfield.

"Management can only do so much. Now we got the law stepping in. That will help," he said.

Winfield Police Chief Eddie Starcher said the ordinance is a proactive approach.

"We try to get rid of the problem before it gets here, and sometimes we do that, sometimes we don't. This law, this ordinance will help us further that safety of our citizens," Starcher said.

While Winfield may not have the drug problems like other cities, officials said the ordinance helps keep the drug issues the city does have from getting out of control.

Landlords also could be fined under the ordinance, if they encourage or permit illegal activity in their rental property.

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