Bill to help with foreclosed homes hit by vandals

Kern County continues to have the highest number of home foreclosures in the state.
Kern County continues to have the highest number of home foreclosures in the state.

Now, a new concern is on the rise with empty and abandoned foreclosed homes, which are being taken over by vandals, criminals, and even the homeless.

However, a new bill aims to prevent neighborhood blight and crimes associated with the foreclosure crisis.

Many believe it is the aftermath of so many foreclosures. Currently, Kern County has the highest number in California with 35,000 from 2008 to 2011.

Abandoned homes can be burglarized, vandalized, or stripped, and become perfect targets for arsonists.

"What we have seen is that there has been an increase in the number of problems of foreclosed or abandoned homes," said Chief Deputy Francis Moore, Kern County Sheriff's Department. "We have had just shy of 250 calls for service that have to do with squatters, foreclosed, or vacant homes."

Moore says besides crimes against the properties, the homeless are also targeting foreclosures, especially as it starts getting hotter.

"The heat in Bakersfield in the summer months gets very warm, so a lot of times our homeless folks are going to be looking for some place to get out of the sun and that may be a vacant home or a vacant business, to get out of the sun and into the shade and maybe even someplace that has running water."

A proposed "Homeowner Bill of Rights" would help communities crack down on the crimes that happen in foreclosures.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris says she's pushing for the bill to reduce foreclosures and keep families in their homes.

For some, living next door to a deteriorating or abandoned home raises concerns.

Hugh Reynolds owns Reynolds Machine on Alta Vista in Bakersfield. He can see from his shop, criminals taking advantage of abandoned homes.

"They can even be stealing everything in the inside as they did to the house across the street, tore cabinets out, toilets out, kitchen counter, appliances, took wires out of the walls. Nobody could stop them because there was nobody to report the crime," he said.

Reynolds says he would like to see this new bill pass. He believes it would help abandoned homes get back on the market and improve neighborhoods.

For now, police and deputies are dealing with an increase in crimes linked to these empty houses.

    

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