Catching housing code violators will now be a step easier for the Village of Westbury, as the board amended a zoning law last week which will allow investigators to get a search warrant without having to send the homeowner or landlord prior notice.
As of the March 6 meeting, if building department officials were denied access to a home suspected of criminal activity or illegal housing, the law required them to give the homeowner written notice that they were working to obtain a search warrant. By the time they obtained the warrant, the landlord or homeowner had cleaned up shop.
“The provision essentially required us to tip off people we knew were violating the law,” said village mayor Peter Cavallaro. “When we would go back (with the warrant) the situation that was obvious from observations we had made was eradicated. We’d leave and then a few weeks later, we’d get complaints from people in the area that the same problems were happening again.”
When village officials suspect a home of illegal activity, they can now go before a judge and obtain a search warrant — provided that they have probable cause.
“We can’t just barge into a home,” Cavallaro said. “The judge holds our feet to the fire and makes sure we’ve done our homework and have ample evidence.”