Local News

Durham Officials Seize Two Houses to Deter Crime

Posted January 5, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST

— The Bull City is trying to slam the door on crime. Durham leaders are launching an aggressive campaign to get rid of drug dealers, rowdy partiers and other law breakers.

The district attorney's office is trying to seize two houses in Durham that they call public nuisances. However, the owner of one of the properties is planning to fight the lawsuit.

"I was born in this house," says home owner James Westman. "I'm not going anywhere."

Westman fought in the Vietnam War, and now he is ready to fight to keep his house. He says city officials and police are singling him out for the wrong reasons.

"I think the police department and the D.A. are jealous because I bought a Cadillac," he said.

"As a prosecutor, my primary objective is to have the illegal activity that's being conducted at these locations stopped," says Jim Hardin, Durham County district attorney.

Hardin says police have been to Westman's house dozens of times this past year.

"When traditional law enforcement techniques have not been successful in addressing the complaints from the citizens, and stopping the criminal activity," Hardin says other steps must be taken - such as the public nuisance lawsuits.

City officials hope that a restraining order on the two locations will stop the criminal activity. If not, they say they will be forced to seize the houses in court.