BAKERSFIELD, CA - A group of frustrated neighbors in northeast Bakersfield called 17 News with growing concerns about what is happening on their street.
Specifically, they are concerned about two abandoned homes that have been taken over by squatters and the lack of action by city officials to kick them out.
Families who live off Haley Street and University Avenue said they're fed up with squatters taking over their quiet neighborhood. They said they're losing patience with Bakersfield Code Enforcement's effort to take care of the problem.
"There's trash everywhere. It looks like it's a junk yard. It doesn't look like it's a home," said Rachel Thomas.
Rachel Thomas said she is frustrated with a group of young people squatting in two abandoned homes in her neighborhood.
"They'll break through walls and windows," said Thomas. "They'll do it from the back alley way so it's not noticeable from the street. If you're not looking for it, then you don't know."
At a vacant home on Hollis Street, code enforcement posted a sign warning people to stay out. "We're tired of it because it's our neighborhood. We don't know who these people are for one thing, and it doesn't do a lot for property values," noted Sunny Carrassi.
Neighbors said the young squatters keep coming back and they have reported the problems to Bakersfield Code Enforcement. "We have to keep calling and calling and calling. We have to bug them. They just shrug us off," explained Thomas.
Code Enforcement sent a notice to the homeowner, who has until June 12th to respond.
"A lot of people are concerned with government intrusions, so we try to give the property owners every opportunity to take care of these issues on their own before the government has to step in and take care of it for them," said David Paquette, Bakersfield Code Enforcement Supervisor.
Officers had to step in at a home around the corner on Arnold Street after the owner never responded. "If you don't have a responsible owner, then we have to do what we have to do," explained Paquette.
City Code Enforcement hired contractors to clean up the property on Arnold Street in April, but it's already trashed again. "We've got over 250 of these. This is just a small percentage of what code enforcement does," he continued.
Paquette said always call his office to report ongoing problems with a property. Even after officers clean up a home, he said they won't check up on it for another three months.
"I don't want this kind of activity in my neighborhood. None of us do. We're trying to work on getting the neighborhood to where it's livable," said Carrassi.
"It's an unhealthy situation here so we want to get it taken care of. It goes back to that broken window theory. It brings disorder to the neighborhood. When there's signs of disorder, there's a higher likelihood of crime," said Paquette.
You can track crime in your neighborhood on the Bakersfield Police Department's website. If you search within a one-mile radius of the vacant homes, you will find there have been 416 crime reports so far this year.
Since January 1st, there have been more than 240 reports of burglaries and thefts. There have been 80 reports of motor vehicle thefts.