Written by Jeff Lipton
Some Long Beach residents are concerned that Sandy may have brought another dilemma in her destructive wake: squatters.
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One neighbor who spoke to Patch last week said he spotted a man entering an abandoned home at 457 West Market St. on Aug. 9. He reported it to authorities, who responded to the location and secured the home.
The neighbor said he is sickened by the notion of squatters now taking up residence in homes left vacant by last October’s storm. His friend told him that a squatter may have been living in another vacant apartment on that same block, but city officials have no report of that one.
He said the abandoned homes are an eyesore and are now presenting problems such as squatting.
“It’s really just deplorable,” said the neighbor, who requested anonymity. “I think the police need to be more proactive. This is a small town. They should have been there every day checking on the home.”
Lt. Eric Cregeen of the Long Beach Police Department said police have been keeping a close watch on the house. Cregeen said that between Aug. 9 and 15 they responded to four calls about a squatter in the home.
“Unfortunately, the squatter was never on the scene when we were called there,” Cregeen said. “If we found someone there, we would have locked them up. We are very proactive. One of the officers on patrol said that he’s been stopping over there making sure there were no other problems.”
The city’s buildings department officials inspected 457 West Market on Aug. 16 and violations were issued to the owner “for the property being unsecured,” said Buildings Commissioner Scott Kemins. He added that numerous windows and two doors were found unlocked and city officials temporarily secured the building.
No one was inside the home when they inspected it, Kemins said, noting that the owner has 10 days to correct the violations or face a fine up to $250 per day. A violation was previously issued on the property for overgrown grass, said Kemins, who added that it has since been corrected.
Kemins said the owner of the property had passed away and the property was being handled by an attorney for the estate.
In addition, the buildings commissioner said the property had been left vacant before Hurricane Sandy and the problem was not storm-related.
Even though the windows and doors of a home are not secured, it gives no one a right to break into it, said Kemins, who added that police should be called immediately when someone sees that happen.
The neighbor said the idea of squatters making use of abandoned buildings in his neighborhood is troubling to local residents.
“The house is derelict and this is upsetting the neighbors,” he said. “The house needs to be boarded up or demolished. It doesn’t look nice for the neighborhood.”
He said he also has seen raccoons and possum on his property and believes they were drawn to the neighborhood by the abandoned home.
“They come out at night and destroy everything in my garden,” he said.
“We never had this before,” the neighbor said about the squatting problem. “We don’t know what it could lead to.”
He added that if it’s happening on his block, it may be occurring in other neighborhoods across the city.
But Kemins said the problem at 457 West Market is isolated and he is not aware of any other squatting issues anywhere else in Long Beach.
“We’ll be following up on it,” Kemins said of the abandoned West Market Street home.