Springfield Looks To Landlords To Help Curb Drug Use

Nov 30, 2016

The Springfield Police Department and the U.S. Attorney's office convened a meeting in Springfield Tuesday to try to get landlords to play a greater role in fighting the opioid epidemic.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jon Ophardt says similar meetings have been held in St. Johnsbury, Barre and Rutland, and the idea is to reach out to landlords in towns where drug use and crime have been increasing.

Ophardt says it's important for landlords to know what's going on at their properties, and he says property owners are responsible for reporting criminal activity when it's suspected.

"There's prevention. There's treatment. There's law enforcement, and it's got to be a community response as well. And landlords are part of that community response," Ophardt says. "And I think that's been part of the effort ... to underscore the need to change that relationship between landlord and tenant, to some degree, as part of the effort to deal with the opioid problem in Vermont."

But tensions boiled over a few times when some landlords said they've reported drug use, only to have the local police fail to take action.

About 70 people showed up for the meeting, and the crowd was filled with landlords and community members, many who spoke about the drug use in their community.

Springfield police chief Doug Johnston told the crowd that his department wants to work closer with landlords, and he says he wants to help property owners better understand their rights and responsibilities when renting out their apartments and homes.

Johnston says Vermont does have strict eviction laws, but landlords can do a better job of screening tenants and writing drug use provisions into lease agreements.