Vandals target foreclosed homes

March 21, 2008 7:04:33 PM PDT
Here's a new twist to the devastating effects of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. San Jose is now dealing with gangs and drug-users moving into the homes that have been abandoned by their owners.

A South San Jose house went into foreclosure last year, according to city officials. Neighbors are tired of the people and activity it's been attracting.

"Drugs, sex just having a good time trashing the place," said a neighbor.

ABC7's Tomas Roman: "Who?"

"Young kids, young kids," said the neighbor.

The 78-year-old neighbor fears for her safety.

She's called the police and complained to the city about the home. In response, San Jose Code Enforcement Officials boarded it up recently, to stop it from also being used by the homeless.

Manuel Martinez who lives across the street is worried for his children.

"Anything can happen in a house like that, empty and no one to take care of it," said neighbor Manuel Martinez

Empty homes like this one are a blight for many of the neighborhoods in which they're located.

Maggie Graves who lives right next door, says a fire was started in a vacant Willow Glen home by vandals recently. The back door lock is still broken.

"It's scary you know the roof is collapsing and starting to collapse into our yard," said Maggie Graves.

There are now about 4,000 homes in default throughout Santa Clara County according to Realty trac. Some owners have lost the home to the bank others have just walked away.

"A vacant home is a dangerous home," said Jamie Matthews from the San Jose Code Enforcement Division.

Jamie Matthews of the San Jose's Code Enforcement Division says he's now monitoring 87 of these foreclosed and vacant homes.

The problem has increased 20 percent since last year and is still rising.

"In some areas of the city, homes are being taken over by gangs. We want to prevent that by making it difficult for them to set up occupancy," said Matthews.

The owners of two homes in the Willow Glen area were told to clean up and secure their property or else the city would do it. If the city does the work they charge anywhere from $1,200 to $5,000 dollars to take care of the properties.

Code enforcement tries to keep up with the tide of vacancies, but say they need residents to report vacant homes before they become a problem.