Harris County Attorney discusses community protection with Northeast Harris County Bar Association

 
Celina Vinson, managing attorney for litigation (left), and County Attorney Vince Ryan discuss community protection matters with the Northeast Harris County Bar Association on Sept. 13.

Celina Vinson, managing attorney for litigation (left), and County Attorney Vince Ryan discuss community protection matters with the Northeast Harris County Bar Association on Sept. 13.

 

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan met with the Northeast Harris County Bar Association at Los Cucos restaurant in Kingwood on Friday, Sept. 13 to describe the Office’s community protection program.

County Attorney Ryan, along with Celena Vinson, Managing Attorney for Litigation, discussed how the County Attorney’s Office uses civil law to rid neighborhoods of enterprises that foster crime.

“We have a duty to protect our community from those who want to operate illegal businesses,” said County Attorney Ryan. “As the third-largest county in the nation, we are facing new challenges that others have not yet seen.”

The Harris County Attorney can take legal action against owners who create situations that encourage crime on or around their property. The County Attorney works with owners of properties to develop ways for the owners to take steps to discourage criminal activities.

Vinson said the most common nuisances the office sees are illegal game rooms, massage parlors, smoke shops, and motels that permit prostitution on their premises.

“We work with law enforcement agencies to constantly check on these places to make sure they’re adhering to court orders,” said Vinson. “We sometimes have to go after the landlords who knowingly allow their tenants to operate outside the law.”

Although the lawsuits are filed in civil court they deter criminal behavior. The County Attorney has obtained court orders to require property owners to employ security guards, repair fences, add surveillance cameras, fix broken lighting, and screen tenants for felony backgrounds.

The program has had success across the county with closures of a number of illicit spas, game rooms, and after-hours bars. The County Attorney’s Office has been successful in filing suit against apartment complexes where prostitution, narcotic offenses, and aggravated crimes have taken place.

Since January of this year, the community protection group has sent letters or filed lawsuits resulting in the closure of 19 illicit massage parlors.

“We are all partners working together to keep our community safe,” said County Attorney Ryan. “Our program has proven to be effective, and we will continue to work together to keep illegal enterprises out of our neighborhoods.”