'Public nuisance' bows to bulldozer

August 16, 1994|By Gregory P. Kane | Gregory P. Kane,Sun Staff Writer

At precisely noon yesterday, 70-year-old William Springs silently watched a bulldozer demolish the home he said he built 40 years ago, the home Anne Arundel County police and prosecutors say had become a public nuisance and haven for drug dealing.

The front porch went first. Then the front wall. The T. R. Wilkinson Excavating Co.'s bulldozer swung around to the north side of the house in the 800 block of Mount Zion-Marlboro Road in Lothian. Within an hour, the house was a pile of rubble, the latest victim of State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee's use of the state "common nuisance" law.

"I think Anne Arundel County is the only county to use the nuisance law to demolish structures," Mr. Weathersbee said as he watched the bulldozer. "This is a graphic demonstration of what can be done about nuisance houses."

The nuisance law allows prosecutors to target dwellings where drugs are bought, sold and used. Mr. Weathersbee said Mr. Springs' home had been a "crack house" for the past six years.

Not all such houses are destroyed. Prosecutors decide which ones to go after. Usually the decision is based on the home's condition and whether the owner makes any effort to stop the illegal activities, said Mr. Weathersbee.

Court records show that Mr. Springs went to Circuit Court in March 1987 for the illegal manufacture and possession of narcotics, and in April 1990 for charges of possession of narcotics and maintaining a common nuisance. Both cases were placed on the inactive docket.

In May 1993, another narcotics charge was placed on the inactive docket.

However, Mr. Springs' legal problems continued. He was sentenced in January to two years with all but 90 days suspended and given a $200 fine for an April 16, 1993, possession of cocaine charge.

This March, he was back in court. Prosecutors pulled the March 1987 and April 1990 cases off the inactive docket, along with a Feb. 10, 1992, cocaine possession charge. They were used as examples of Mr. Springs' history for a case stemming from a Dec. 10, 1993, incident in which he and five others were arrested during a drug raid at his house, said Kristin Riggin, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office.

Mr. Springs was convicted in District Court and sentenced to 60 days in jail for the December 1993 cocaine possession charge.

That's when prosecutors got a District judge to order that the house be knocked down.

Capt. Richard Smith, commander of the southern district, said the house has "been a long-standing problem [in terms of] drug dealing and other calls for service." He said police also have answered calls at the address for disorderly conduct and assaults.

Officer Randy Bell, a spokesman for the police department, said, "We've had a couple of calls for guys armed with guns and several warrant service calls."

Mr. Springs, who was billed $2,000 by the county to have his home demolished, said his friends were to blame for the drug activity.

"They may not have been the true classification of friends," said Mr. Springs, who said he is currently staying at an apartment in Washington. "But they were associates."

He said he tried to get his friends to stop the drug activity but they would not.

Mr. Springs' house is the second in the county to be demolished. A Laurel home was bulldozed in July 1992.

Last month, the state's attorney's office received permission to destroy another house in the 1000 block of Friendship Lane in Shady Side.

Ms. Riggin, the state's attorney's spokeswoman, said prosecutors have filed suit to bring down still another home in Broadneck.

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