Police want home declared `drug nuisance'

Judge could order seizure of property in Lothian

March 24, 2000|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

After raiding a Lothian man's house this week for the fifth time since 1997, county police have decided on another approach -- asking the state to designate the house on Mount Zion Marlboro Road as a "drug nuisance" and take control of the property.

The house is owned by Daniel Lee Riggs, 39, who has been convicted twice on drug charges. He is scheduled to be tried in May on drug possession and distribution charges stemming from a December raid, in which police say they seized cocaine and cash.

Police say the owner has continued to sell drugs after each arrest and raid, but acknowledge they have not found drugs during each search. If the house is declared a "drug nuisance," a District Court judge could evict Riggs, order him to sell it or, if Riggs is allowed to remain, impose a curfew for the property or order periodic drug searches, officials said.

Kristin Riggin, spokeswoman for the Anne Arundel state's attorney's office, declined to comment specifically on the Riggs case because it is an active investigation. But she said that a drug nuisance abatement may be sought after two drug-related offenses take place at a property. Her office begins proceedings at the Police Department's request or after noting a significant problem at an address.

Unlike a criminal forfeiture, which requires a felony offense, the nuisance abatement is "a civil proceeding based upon a criminal complaint," Riggin said.

An alleged drug dealer in South County's Cedarhurst community was forced to sell his property, and another was evicted under the drug nuisance abatement statute in the past year, Anne Arundel County police said.

"We're serious about shutting down these drug operations," said Southern District Sgt. Patrick Riordan. "This is one way to do it."

According to police, undercover detectives purchased crack cocaine between late February and mid-March. Based on the buy, they obtained a search warrant for Riggs' house, which was executed Tuesday night, police said.

Riggs and David Brian Halsey, 34, a Mount Zion Marlboro Road neighbor, were arrested and charged with possessing drug paraphernalia, police said. Both were released Wednesday on their own recognizance.

Riggs could not be reached last night.

Investigators say several dozen regular customers from southern Anne Arundel visit the house at all hours. Several neighbors declined to comment yesterday on the purported drug activity, saying they did not want to get involved.

According to court records, Riggs pleaded guilty in August to a drug possession charge and was sentenced to probation and drug counseling. He also was given probation after pleading guilty to possessing drug paraphernalia in 1991, according to court records.

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