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D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine sues ‘neglectful’ property owners for failing to provide safety

August 15, 2018

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine is suing “neglectful” property owners for failing to provide safety measures on buildings now overrun with criminals.

D.C. police have confiscated thousands of dollars, drugs and guns, and arrested dozens of people in a few buildings located in Anacostia, Eckington and Petworth, and neighbors repeatedly call 911 afraid for their safety, the Office of the D.C. Attorney General alleges in court documents.

Mr. Racine announced Monday that he’s applying the District’s Drug-, Firearm-, or Prostitution-Related Nuisance Abatement Act to force the property owners to install “basic security measures” without which buildings can “become havens for dangerous drug and firearm activity.”

D.C. Council member Charles Allen, Ward 6 Democrat, told The Washington Times on Tuesday that the lawsuits are “fantastic news” for the city.

“I think the fact that we’re starting to see momentum and these actions shows that the attorney general is trying to take this seriously,” said Mr. Allen, who chairs the Public Safety Committee.

He said that several residents testified at his oversight hearings this year that property owners in their neighborhoods were unresponsive to complaints about crime in their buildings.

One property is a four-unit apartment building on the 4000 block of Kansas Avenue NW in Petworth owned by Alemayehu Tarekegn and Armacho Azanaw. The attorney general’s office called the site a “heroin den,” and is using the pair for “failure to abate the drug-related activity” after D.C. police seized nearly 300 grams of heroin and $8,500 in cash there in the last nine months.

The building is in Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Karen Cooper’s area. She called the situation “awful” and said she was “shocked” to hear about it. But she said the lawsuit “doesn’t surprise” her because Petworth has struggled with evicting drug dealers before during her three terms with the ANC.

Ms. Cooper noted that the alleged heroin den was next to a child day care center.

The building owners could not be reached for comment.

Council member Elissa Silverman, at-large independent, thanked Mr. Racine for his work Tuesday in a written statement: “The Office of the Attorney General is sending a message to negligent owners that being a slumlord is not a viable business model in the District. These actions will go a long way toward keeping tenants and neighbors safer, perhaps, even, saving lives.”

Irena Kang is chief of staff for council member Anita Bonds, the at-large Democrat who chairs the Housing Committee. Ms. Kang said Tuesday that she was “pleased” by the lawsuits. She noted that Ms. Bonds is working on a permanent bill to give the attorney general more power to protect tenants’ rights when landlords break D.C. laws.

In March, Mr. Racine sued a company named Just Street and Division Avenue LLC, which owns two properties in Deanwood on the 900 block of Division Avenue NE and the 5200 block of Just Street NE. Police responded to 700 calls at the locations over the last two years, often for drug or gun activity, and two people were murdered at the properties. The company settled in June and agreed to hire security guards, as well as set up cameras and lights.

Mr. Racine is suing Christine Kelly of Kelly Management to “control” her semi-attached apartment on the 1600 block of Lincoln Road in Eckington, which police have searched twice in the last year and recovered “three vials of PCP, 234 grams of marijuana, and 68 zips of crack cocaine” and three guns, according to court documents.

Christine Kelly and Kelly Management could not be reached for comment.

Owners of two Anacostia properties are being sued, both four-unit apartment buildings on the 1600 block of R Street SE. The attorney general says the buildings, owned by Everett Murtagh and Oxana Jourkiv, generated almost 30 emergency calls in the last year. Police have arrested several people there on charges of assault and carjacking, as well as dealing PCP and crack cocaine.

Another 1600 block property, also a four-unit apartment, is owned by Yordanos Asres. The attorney general’s office says police have responded to nearly 50 emergency calls there in the past year and have arrested 12 people on charges of dealing or possessing crack cocaine. Police also have seized nearly $4,000 in cash, and illegal guns and ammunition.

Everett Murtagh, Oxana Jourkiv, and Yordanos Asres could not be reached for comment.

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