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Hilltop house boarded up following drug deals, shootings, overdose death

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A rental house in the Hilltop neighborhood known to neighbors and police as a den for drugs and violence will be boarded up on court order nearly a year after Columbus police made undercover drug purchases, and nearly two months after a 1-year-old died after ingesting fentanyl there.

The environmental division of the Franklin County Municipal Court granted a request by City Attorney Zach Klein to board up 70 South Harris Street this week.

“It has a long history littered with violence, assaults, murder, unfortunately an overdose death of a young child, a one-year-old baby, as well as some domestic violence. It's just, it's a very dangerous place,” Klein said.

In addition to the child's death in November, a 13-year-old was shot and injured there in August, and 26-year-old Derek Ponder was shot and killed there in April 2021.

Klein said the investigation into the property began with complaints in the neighborhood and police calls to the home.

Klein encourages people to report similar houses in their neighborhoods, so a case can be built and action can be taken.

“No one wants to subject their family, especially their children to the type of violence and the drug activity, the gang activity that takes place at a neighbor's house, infests in and affects the entire neighborhood," he said.

People can call 311 or Klein's office to report problem houses in their communities.

The house will be boarded up under the court's jurisdiction until it is released. A status conference is scheduled for April.

Klein said the tool can help keep landlords responsible for the tenants they choose.

“These places typically are rental units. And as a result, you know, that's a lost year of income. So it is a financial penalty to these owners, to see them boarded up for a year, and I think it sends the right message," Klein said.

Renee Fox is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. Fox joined the WOSU newsroom from the Tribune Chronicle/Vindicator in the Youngstown area, where she’d been a reporter since 2014. Contact Renee at renee.fox@wosu.org.