Foreclosed home becomes hub for criminal activity

August 29, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A foreclosed house in San Jose, taken over by squatters, is the scene of two fires and, now a homicide investigation. It's a property that's frustrated neighbors on Whitton Avenue for months. They say they've made countless calls to the city and police and nothing was done.

The dead body of a 52-year-old woman was discovered inside a garage on Friday. Police say it's a homicide. Then someone tried to set the house on fire, twice, on Sunday.

Neighbors on Whitton Avenue say they saw trouble brewing. Squatters had taken over the house. They called police repeatedly.

"You call police and make complaints, but they don't really do much, they came here and kicked them out; as soon as they left, they came back again," neighbor Gerardo Lomeli said.

San Jose police are well aware of the house. They've responded at least 10 times in the past two months, making arrests for weapons possession, people in possession of or under the influence of illegal drugs, prostitution, theft of utility services and receiving stolen property.

Officers responded again Monday when ABC7 found people trying to break into the burned out garage apartment where the body was found. The incident prompted police to put up crime scene tape to keep people away.

A neighbor said prostitution activity was blatant.

"I see in front of my house condoms, people do bad things in front of the house at nighttime and I see people walking all night and the weekends looking for somebody to make sex," neighbor Jose Brerbra said.

Neighbors also complained to San Jose City Council Member Sam Liccardo.

"There's a very limited range of options for a city when the problem really isn't the property; it's the people in the property," Liccardo said.

The status of the house is still unclear. The owners walked away and now lives in Portugal.

The crime scene tape and the plywood boards should keep out squatters for now. But as in many neighborhoods in the Bay Area where there are foreclosed homes, there can be no resolution for neighbors until the houses are sold and re-occupied.

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