Groton residents address crime, drug activity at village meeting

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article listed Jeff Evener as the mayor of Groton. Chris Neville is the current mayor.

GROTON, N.Y. – More than 100 residents in the village of Groton attended a meeting of village trustees Monday night to address growing concerns over criminal activity, drug abuse and deteriorating properties.

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In recent weeks, those concerns have been aired out on a Facebook page in which residents have called on municipal officials to take action against a local landlord, Norfe Pirro, whose properties are seen by some residents as the primary source of the village’s drug-related activity.

Last week, authorities charged three people and seized more than $1,200 worth of heroin at one of Pirro’s properties on East Cortland Street.

During Monday night’s meeting at Groton High School, some residents called for an increased police presence in the village, including more foot patrols in the downtown area.

“People are afraid to be on Main Street. People do not want to bring their children on Main Street,” said Christine Brown Personius, a Groton resident who launched the Facebook page. “The deterioration of some of our buildings on Main Street is very sad to see. We need to be reassured that our village police officers will continue to be diligent in protecting the community from drugs, pedophiles and other criminal activity.”

Personius’ remarks were followed by a round of applause from the audience.

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Personius speaking during Monday night's meeting at Groton High School (Peter Blanchard/Cortland Voice)

Lt. Tim Williams, who serves as the highest-ranking member of the Groton Police Department, said drug-related activity in the village “is a huge problem."

“Some of the properties, the people are so transient it’s very difficult to keep track of who’s in town and who's gone,” Williams said. “People do what they do and they’re gone before you even learn their name.”

Groton Mayor Chris Neville assured residents that village trustees are taking measures to improve quality of life in the community, including legal action against Pirro, the local landlord.

Village trustees have filed a civil complaint in Tompkins County Court against Pirro and Heritage Homestead Properties. The village is being represented by William J. Troy, an Ithaca-based attorney.

The complaint filed Sep. 18 asks that the court enact penalties and a temporary closing order on Pirro's properties for his repeated violations of a local law.

In April of 2014, village trustees enacted a property and building nuisance law to address public concerns over various rental properties whose tenants were “engaging in conduct which created public nuisances.”

The law gave the village the authority to take civil action against property owners who repeatedly violated the ordinance.

“The ongoing and continuing nuisance violations at defendants’ rental properties have adversely affected the Village of Groton and its residents,” the complaint reads. “These adverse consequences include numerous police visits for these properties, criminal conduct taking place at and near the properties to include…drug sales, weapons possession, theft, assault, damage to property and disorderly conduct which disturbs a small, rural and residential community.”

In their civil complaint, village officials say Pirro has failed to offer a written plan to prevent further disturbances at his properties.

“Pirro has written on the Internet, ‘You can’t afford to get me out of Groton,’ suggesting his intent is not to abate nuisance conditions but instead fight plaintiff,” the complaint reads.

Read the full civil complaint here:

Groton v. Pirro civil complaint by Peter Blanchard

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