At the start of Monday night’s city council meeting, Newton resident Jerry Chandler, Jr. alleged the city has systemically recruited people living in Chicago in order to meet low income housing stipulations for grants, and he claimed in doing so has attracted “thugs” or people he described as “a detriment to our society” which he attributed to Newton’s drug and property crimes.
However, Chandler provided no proof of these accusations apart from acknowledging recent increases in property crime throughout the town of about 15,000 people. Instead, he questioned mayor Mike Hansen directly and demanded answers to several issues during the council’s citizen participation period.
When Iowa Speedway was in the early development stages, Chandler claimed he heard from “several people” the City of Newton had to increase its low income or Section 8 housing in order to receive certain grants to fund the construction. Hansen, who was a councilperson at the time, said he did not recall such a stipulation.
“Where are all the people that are running the streets of Newton, Iowa, now coming from?” Chandler asked. “You know who I’m talking about.”
Newton Daily News is aware of the unsubstantiated rumors regarding the city’s supposed recruitment of Chicago residents, which are often framed as racist-laced accusations against the minority populations in town.
The owner of Jerry Lee’s Plumbing & Heating and former Jasper County Board of Supervisors candidate also alleged he was recently approached by a person who claimed to be an “east side Chicago drug lord gang leader.” Although he said the man was “as full of crap” as the Newton Sanitary Landfill, Chandler seemed to believe some of what the man had to say and recalled the experience to council members.
“I’m working at a house across the street from Emerson Hough School laying floor the other day and a black man walked in and he was talking to me,” Chandler said. “Had never met me. Told me he was a previous tenant of the house and how he had been moving five kilos of dope a week out of that house, now he was meeting at Kwik Star with his clients.”
Those people, Chandler claimed, are coming from Chicago, because “that’s exactly what the man told” him. Hansen inquired if he had reported the man to authorities, to which Chandler said he “talked to a few people about it.”
He also complained people riding on bikes and wearing backpacks late at night and early in the morning should be stopped by the Newton Police Department to halt the supposed illegal activity.
“Now you see adults riding around on BMX dirt bikes (at) 2:30 in the morning? That’s not a little suspicious to the Newton Police Department or the Jasper County Sheriff’s (Office)?” Chandler said, claiming he also watched two or three drug deals take place near North Fifth Avenue East and East 10th Street North.
Newton Police Chief Rob Burdess later said officers need probable cause to stop and search people, to do so otherwise is unconstitutional. Hansen, again, asked if Chandler had called the police to report these incidents. Chandler said the police “won’t do anything about it” if he had.
“We have to have legal justification to stop somebody,” Burdess said. “We just can’t stop them because they are riding a bicycle at 2:30 in the morning and maybe have a backpack on. That’s not illegal. That’s no more illegal than a 12-year-old riding a bicycle to school at 7:30 in the morning with a backpack on. That’s a challenge. We know that.”
Burdess said the Newton Police Department has stopped many people on bicycles when they are violating law, such as not having a bicycle light, commit a traffic violation or if a citizen calls 911 reporting suspicious behavior.
“If we get that call, then that gives us reasonable suspicion to stop somebody,” the police chief continued. “But to just randomly stop bicyclists because they’re out at 2:30 at night is not illegal. And we’d be hearing from a bunch of attorneys in that sense.”
Later, Hansen asked for Burdess to follow up with him and the city administrator Matt Muckler on some of Chandler’s complaints, including one in which his neighbor’s property allegedly has an abundance of parked cars.
After the meeting, Hansen and Muckler told the Newton Daily News the city is part of an ongoing drug task force team working in the region and had recently launched the Cops and Neighborhoods United program, which designates certain officers to specific areas of town to regularly address issues and crime in their area.
Hansen said the findings from Burdess will completely discredit Chandler’s insinuations that nothing is being done to address drug and property crimes.
At the city council meeting, Chandler also claimed Newton is the “meth capital of Iowa,” but, again, provided no evidence to support his notion. Hansen firmly denied this claim.
“You know that for a fact? We’re the meth capital of Iowa?” Hansen said, skeptical of Chandler’s remark.
“Yes, I do know that for a fact,” Chandler replied. “Everybody does.”
Hansen said he is willing to have a conversation with Chandler but “to make a statement that Newton is the meth capital of Iowa” is “ridiculous.”
He added, “You just made that statement in front of this council chamber and for everybody here. That’s ridiculous.”
Both the mayor and city administrator vehemently deny Chandler’s claims.
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or firstname.lastname@example.org