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Waterloo forms after-hours task force in response to recent shootings

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) -- The City of Waterloo announced the creation of the Nuisance Property Task Force on Wednesday to address businesses operating as after-hours clubs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The task force is made up of law enforcement, code enforcement and the Waterloo Fire Marshal, according to a release from the Waterloo Police Department.

Waterloo Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald says the task force is being established in response to frequent complaints about properties and property owners who disregard or circumvent overall public safety for their economic advantage. He says these actions adversely affect the quality of life in the city.

"These venues operate outside of the law, City Code, and have been a nexus for firearm related injuries and fatalities," Fitzgerald said. "Our city deserves better."

While the release says Fitzgerald has identified specific areas where recent violence has occurred, those areas are not outlined.

The City will utilize an 'all hands on deck' approach utilizing the enforcement authority of multiple departments. To address civil issues, the Codes Department, Fire Department, Health Department, and City Attorney’s Office will take civil legal action against anyone involved in operating establishments in violation of city code. Those departments will then use their authority to help the police department shut down violent, dangerous, and illegal operations.

"I want to make it crystal clear that property owners and landlords can’t simply ignore their legal obligations to abate criminal/nuisance conduct occurring in their premises," Fitzgerald said. "If they turn a blind eye, facilitate it, or fail to assume responsibility because they are earning illegal proceeds while jeopardizing our community, they’ll find themselves in court facing the prospect of shuttered buildings, fines, and the loss of rental income."

By announcing the task force, Chief Fitzgerald is giving violators the opportunity to gain voluntary complains and correct any issues prior to official intervention.

"This is not a warning, it is a promise," Fitzgerald said. "Everyone who is involved in the operation of after-hours clubs to make a quick buck, and who allow criminal activity to occur will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law."

Residents are asked to report property-related nuisances, illegal after-hours establishments, illegal dumping, health code violations, occupancy violations, crime, or other violations using the police department's non-emergency line (319) 291-2515.