BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Bakersfield police officers say vacant homes are becoming a growing problem around the city because they open the door to many hazards and increases crime in several neighborhoods.
"A lot of these condemned homes have issues either the wiring or the water is shut off or the power is shut off. A lot of times it's an unlivable space and it becomes a hazard," said Bakersfield Police officer Jaime Hayes.
Officers come across many transients who move into empty homes, staying weeks if not months at a time. They say it may be the reason why some neighborhoods experience a rise in vehicle theft and home burglaries. Even, fires.
"Houses where wires are exposed, that’s easy access to the other side and becomes a fire hazard. Arresting them is not always the best option of course, there are other options," she said.
Since January, officers have teamed up with non-profit organizations providing help and eventually a legal place to live.
“It's scary," said Michael Rodriguez of Bakersfield.
Rodriguez has lived in his home for 20 years, and says a condemned home brings down the neighborhood.
“It's gotten worse in the last few years. There's been a lot of people in this particular house right here coming and going all hours of the night,” he said.
Officers say most people living in vacant homes are individuals hiding from law enforcement or basically have no other place to go.
“I got kids living in the house and you don't know what kind of people are coming all hours of the night, and people arguing, running and yelling and of course you get concerned for your safety," he said.
Flood Ministries is just one of the organizations working with police.
Workers will come out to a home, evaluate the people living inside and then provide assistance.
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