Vacant Houses Open Door to Crime
The often busy intersection of Beverly Boulevard and North Wilton Place requires drivers to stay alert, but even the most distracted driver might notice that something seems wrong with the house on the southeast corner.
Boarded up, surrounded by a chain-link fence and covered with graffiti, the house became more than an eyesore. As the Ledger went to press, its demolition was in progress.
Jerry Shaw, president of SSA Security Group, said he believed the house attracted transients, who use it as a base for criminal activity.
“We have a feeling that [transients] may be exiting that property between 11 p.m. and 4 in the morning,” said Shaw, prior to the house’s demolition, “and are participating in a lot of the burglaries and thefts of motor vehicles that are occurring in the area.”
Los Angeles Police Dept. officer Joseph Pelayo, of the Olympic Division, said that while he could not pinpoint crime to that particular house, he said that vacant properties do attract criminal activity.
“My analogy is that these … properties are basically like a bee hive, where you have the worker bees go out and do their thing and bring everything back to the [hive],” said Pelayo.
In this case, Pelayo said, “their thing” is crime.
“We’ve discovered, not necessarily at [the Wilton house], but at other properties … stolen credit cards and mail and so forth,” he said.
According to Pelayo, the existence of abandoned houses and their attendant crime is due in part to a one-two combination of investor interest in the area and a city bureaucracy that’s slow to issue demolition and building permits.
As an example, Pelayo cited seven properties just north of the Wilton house that were sold and demolished to build multi-unit family housing. While those properties stood vacant, Pelayo said, crime spiked in the area.
“Once [the houses] were demolished,” said Pelayo, “the crime went away.”
According to Pelayo, the Wilton house was not technically abandoned. He said he was in contact with the absent owner who has a trespass order on file. This order gives police permission to come onto the property and arrest whoever is not authorized to be there.
“The owner of that property has been very cooperative,” said Pelayo. “I can call him and say, ‘I’ve gotten calls [about] activity on your property. More than likely, it’s unsecure and you need to go by there and have it checked.’ And he’ll send somebody the same day.”
Pelayo said that neighbors should call police if they see activity at an abandoned house, but understand that it might take some time for police to respond. The priority, Pelayo said, is to respond to crime in homes that are occupied.
“If a property is considered under construction or abandoned, [a call regarding that property] is not considered an emergency,” he said.
Pelayo said there are five or six abandoned houses in his area, which includes Larchmont and Windsor Square.
“It actually has a lot to do with the city,” said Pelayo. “There is a lot of delay on permits.”