Monday, October 17, 2011

Foreclosures More Than Just An Economic Problem It's Also A Crime Problem

The New York Times had an interesting piece that points to home foreclosures being more than just an economic problem, they are also becoming a crime problem. From the story:

“They’re becoming a magnet for criminal activity,” said Deputy Inspector Miltiadis Marmara, the commanding officer of the 113th Precinct in South Jamaica. “They hang out in these abandoned homes that may be foreclosed, or the owners walked away.” He added, “Every day we respond to something to that effect.”

What's funny is that even in the sleepy little burg where I work, we are seeing more and more squatters taking over properties that are empty, have been foreclosed on, or have been abandoned by their owners. In our case, most of them are apartment complexes where the owners are out of state investors. Either they are walking away from their properties or they are so financially distressed that they are paying little to no attention as to what's actually occurring at these properties.

Once the 'neer do wells' figure out that the owners aren't paying attention and many units are empty they move in and use these apartments for ilicit activity. Once this begins to occur, it doesn't take long for the few paying tenants to flee to safer environs if they have the means to do so. These distressed properties then become crime generators that will begin to create real problems for the surrounding neighborhoods.

To help mitigate these problems we've been working with owners to help them control people on the properties by using Texas Criminal Trespass statutes. In extreme cases we've been partnering with our Code Enforcement folks to cite and/or condemn these properties to try to get the property owners to exercise control over their property.

Given the long term outlook on the foreclosure crisis, this problem is not likely to go away anytime soon. If you aren't having problems in your community with abandoned/foreclosed properties yet, you might want to have a plan of action in place ahead of time so you will be ready if these kinds of problems pop up in your community.

What has your agency done to keep problems down at abandoned or foreclosed properties?

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