DRUG ABATEMENT RESPONSE TEAM
The Jackson County, Missouri Prosecutor's Office, under COMBAT, has enacted the Drug Abatement Response Team (DART) program which concentrates on closing down those properties where illegal drug activity has occurred. Note that all types of property can become the subject of a DART investigation - commercial, owner-occupied, and rental - thus no property owner is immune from having drug activity on their property. The following is a brief summary of how DART program operates:
1. Confirmation of illegal drug activity: The first step in the DART process is the confirmation of illegal drug activity on a property. Confirmation usually takes one of two forms, either narcotics were purchased from someone on the property or a search warrant was executed which resulted in the seizure of narcotics. Thus DART does not become involved simply because someone has complained that there is a drug house in their neighborhood. Only after the police confirm drug activity through their own investigation will DART take action.
2. DART Inspection: After drug activity has been confirmed, the DART team will then conduct a follow-up inspection of the property. This inspection is conducted pursuant to existing city ordinances and utilizes these ordinances to post the property thus closing it to the public. Once the property has been posted, anyone entering onto the property is subject to arrest and can be prosecuted for trespassing. After the property has been posted, the owner of the property may petition the city for a work access permit which will allow them to enter onto the property and correct whatever code violations exist on the property. The DART team's primary interest in applying these laws is not to harass good landowners, but rather, to see that the drug activity which is occurring on the property ceases. Stopping the drug activity ensures that the property will be once again used for lawful purposes and allows for the neighborhood to recover.
3. Drug Activity Warning Letter: Once drug activity has been confirmed on the property, the DART team sends a letter to the owner of the property. This letter informs the owner that drug activity has occurred on their property and that they should take immediate action to ensure that the activity ceases - for example, evicting the tenant. If you receive a notice letter from the DART office, you should contact that DART team immediately at (816)881-3883 and tell them what action you plan to take. In addition, they should be able to answer some of the questions your may have regarding the scope and nature of the activity discussed in the letter. If the tenant should challenge an eviction proceeding, the DART team can assist you in compiling "proof" that the property was used for illegal purposed.
4. Forfeiture: If drug activity is occurring on a property and a landowner knows about the activity and does nothing to correct the problem, then Missouri law allows the DART team to petition a court to forfeit the property to the State of Missouri. This remedy, however, is generally used only as a last resort and after a landowner has refused to correct the problems that are occurring on their property.
Keep in mind that, while it is valuable to know how the DART program operates, if you are actively managing your property you will rarely come into contact with the DART team. If you are screening your tenants and enforcing your lease agreements, then it is unlikely that the DART team will ever be needed to solve a problem that is occurring on your property. If DART does target one of your properties, however, know that their sole interest is yours - to see that the activity ceases and that the tenants move on.