It’s been 10 months since Deaonte Dwayne Bell was killed in a shooting at the Nelson Park Apartments on Maryland Avenue on Columbus’ East Side. Three other people were killed at the apartments in the year before Bell’s death.
Despite the history of violence, Columbus city leaders have been unable to shutter the complex, which was once again the scene of a fatal shooting last month.
Now, says City Attorney Zach Klein, owners are working with the city to make improvements.
“It takes time to build these cases,” says Klein.
Time, and lots of evidence.
“Evidence of gang-activity, guns, drugs... that certainly rises to the level," Klein says. "And having not just one instance, but multiple instances of that taking place, so that way we can go to a court and present our evidence."
The Nelson Park apartments, which are managed by ABC Management Co., are a somewhere rare case, Klein says, because the owners have started working with police to make the complex safer.
“We certainly have their attention,” Klein says.
Klein says owners have added security, installed new lighting and implemented new screening for tenants, including lifetime bans for some people. Klein says the complex owners have also started helping some tenants find jobs and social services.
The last update in the city’s legal case against Nelson Park was made last July.
Klein says the shuttering of large apartment complexes like Nelson Park is rare, largely because of how much work goes into taking such a case before the Franklin County Environmental Court, which handles nuisance abatement cases.
It’s more common for the city to crack down on problematic businesses, like The Family Market, a King-Lincoln neighborhood convenience store where Klein said employees were selling cocaine. The city forced the business to close last week.
Single-family homes are also more likely to be targeted by city code enforcers.
Klein says the city is also working with owners of the Wedgewood Village Apartments in the Hilltop. The apartments were the scene of at least seven homicides last year. Klein says Wedgewood owners are now paying the Columbus Division of Police about $200,000 a year to station special-duty officers at the complex.
Klein says Wedgewood Village is home to about 2,000 people.
If a complex as large as Wedgewood or Nelson Park were forced to close, Klein says the city would try to help residents land on their feet.
“The city has resources in working with various agencies to help displaced individuals should an apartment shut down, regardless of the size,” Klein says.