We received an email from one of the neighbors who has been watching 8 N. Ellwood Avenue go from bad to worse, and thought it would be interesting to share this with our readers, as we think there are several lessons to be learned from this.

When I moved to this block in July 2005, the house was relatively quiet. A middle-aged man, James Sidebottom, was living there at the time. He seemed friendly enough until around early 2007 when several prostitutes and their drug-dealing pimps moved into the property. The situation got worse around Memorial Day of 2007 when they were constantly hanging outside the property during the wee hours of the night. One of the most interesting conversations that my wife and I heard at this property was when a hooker shouted out at 7AM one morning, “F**k you bitch! Everyone knows that I give the best p***y on this block!” The police knew that the situation was bad enough that they ended up raiding the house on two occasions in August and October 2007. The second raid resulted in the arrests of Mr. Sidebottom and a prostitute, Ayanna Murray for CDS possession. Sidebottom was given 2 years probation, but the charges against Ms. Murray were dropped.

After the raid I began working with the state’s attorney’s office for housing code enforcement to have a drug nuisance suit filed. After a few months of trying to get the police to send their raid paperwork to the SA’s office, we were finally able to get the tenants evicted in February 2008. I spoke with the owner, David Rotz, a few weeks after the eviction (while he was securing the property). He basically said that the tenants had done so much damage to the property that there was no way that he could afford to fix it. Before the raid occurred, I learned that Sidebottom was not paying his rent, yet the Rotzes would not evict him or the other illegal tenants because they feared retribution.

James Sidebottom had several drug arrests dating back to 1988, but was relatively clean between 1999 and 2007. As I mentioned before, he was friendly until the time that the hookers moved in. My theory is that he fell off the wagon sometime in 2006 or 2007, and his supplier made a deal with him to give him drugs in exchange for agreeing to let the hookers live at the property.

The most glaring problem here is with the enforcement of our laws. A landlord wants to get his tenant out, but can’t do it because of fear? What does this say about the legal system in Baltimore City? Charges are dropped, probation is handed out like candy on Halloween, and in the meantime — the neighbors are stuck with a nuisance house. Where’s the justice for the decent people who live on this block? While we commend this neighbor for getting involved, it shouldn’t have to require half the neighborhood and countless emails and phone calls to get our State’s Attorneys to indict and convict our criminal element. We have nuisance property laws on the books — hold your elected officials accountable! (Yes, the position of State’s Attorney is an elected position.)

As for the property owner, this home has been vacant for over a year, and it’s creating yet another nuisance (and eyesore) for the surrounding neighbors. This is only one of many stories we hear about speculative investors who move into a neighborhood and then can’t (or won’t) fulfill their obligation to the community, with regard to safety and quality of life issues. With little or no restriction, this story is repeated over and over again, in neighborhoods across Baltimore. We hope the City takes this home away from Mr. Rotz and hands it over to someone who actually wants to be part of this thriving neighborhood and will fix up the house to live in.