County using old statute to fight crime at Texas truck stop

By Clarissa Hawes, Land Line staff writer | Wednesday, March 05, 2014

A county attorney in Harris County, Texas, is using a 100-year-old statute to clean up crime-riddled areas in the county, including a truck stop that has the reputation of being one of the “worst truck stops in America.”

Jorey Herrscher is an assistant county attorney in Harris County, Texas. He told Land Line on Wednesday, March 5, that a police officer who has worked his whole career in the area of the Key Truck Stop located off Interstate 10 in Channelview, Texas, came to him seeking solutions to eliminate criminal activity at the site.

Herrscher said the officer basically came and asked for help to clean this place up, saying he was sick of seeing this.

Since January 2013, Herrscher said that police have been called to the Key Truck Stop at least 54 times, stemming from criminal activity including burglary, robbery, prostitution, possession of cocaine, assault, theft, gambling and credit card fraud.

Herrscher said in the past few years the county has been using a largely forgotten statute, which hasn’t been used since the 1920s, known as Chapter 125 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code regarding common nuisances.

Since rediscovering the statute, Herrscher said 28 illegal game rooms and as many massage parlors, motels/hotels and apartment complexes known for criminal activity have been cleaned up or closed in the past 18 months.

Herrscher said this is the first truck stop the county has sued to clean up its act.

The county has filed a lawsuit against the owner and operator of Key Truck Stop urging them to clean up alleged criminal behavior at the site or face possible shutdown.

According to court documents, the lawsuit claims the truck stop is a public nuisance.

The suit seeks temporary and permanent injunctions to abate the nuisance. The county, representing the state of Texas, is asking that a bond amount be set between $5,000 and $10,000. If the court order is violated and criminal activity continues to occur, the lawsuit states that the county can sue on the bond and the truck stop will be closed for one year.

Herrscher said he has heard from both the property owner and the operator who is leasing the truck stop since the county filed a lawsuit against them. Herrscher said both claim they want to work things out without having to go to court.

He said it is his hope that the truck stop and its owner will comply with the terms outlined in the lawsuit so that it can remain open.

“We will keep going on this until we are sure things have been cleaned up…that it is safe and has safe parking for truck drivers,” Herrscher said.

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