Addressing Neighborhood Blight, One House at a Time NR13416pv

September 5, 2013

Los Angeles:  Acting on a tip by local Senior Lead Officers about two women burglars, LAPD detectives, building inspectors, US postal inspectors, and Department of Children and Family Services, converged on a dilapidated house early this morning to conduct a probation search.  The inspection netted two persons arrested for drugs and another for an outstanding arrest warrant for building and safety violations.  When searched, the home also contained 8 dogs, one of which bit a postal inspector on the buttocks.  She was not seriously injured, and the animals were taken by the Department of Animal Regulations.

“Melissa Reis, who was on probation, was at the home which gave us the authority to search the house,” explained Lt. Paul Vernon, commanding officer of the Mission Detective Division.  “The home had become a flop house for meth users and a total blight on the neighborhood.”

Senior Lead Officers Sean Smith and Phil Ruiz made the house in the 9100 block of Hazeltine Street a special project of theirs, knowing it had become the unattractive nuisance of the neighborhood.  “Everyone knew the house was a problem, but we have to follow the law to do something about it,” explained Officer Ruiz.  “It takes time, and sometimes we have to be creative in how we address these quality-of-life issues.”

That’s why police brought with them inspectors from Building and Safety and the Postal Inspector.  Detectives believed Reis and another woman were responsible for thefts of mailed packages off porches in the neighborhood, hence the postal inspectors’ interest.  And city building inspectors carry with them the authority to red-tag homes that are unsafe.

“This place was a real hovel, and the stream of illicit visitors was causing havoc in the neighborhood.  The building inspectors were able to board up this house and place a lien on it so we can legally keep people out,” Lt. Vernon said.  “The neighbors were really appreciative, too.”

Detectives seized one of the biggest rocks of methamphetamine any of the officers had ever seen.  They also found stolen mail, evidence of identity theft operations, and filthy conditions of human and dog excrement throughout the house and property.

Melissa Reis, 40, was booked on a charge of methamphetamine possession and her probation was revoked.  Daniel Brody, 38 was booked on a charge of possession of methamphetamine for sale, and the homeowner, Shay Sowden, 37, was booked on a warrant for building and safety violations.  He had failed to appear in court yesterday to address building and safety violations.  Sowden admitted to detectives that he has been addicted to opiates since he was 9 years old, yet he is able to function as a robotics expert for Honda.  “By all accounts, he’s a genius, but he’s taken his life down a path of addiction that’s affected his quality of life and his neighbors’, to say the least,” Lt. Vernon said.

Anyone with information on this crime is urged to call Detective Tim Kohl, Mission Burglary Unit, at (818) 838-9977.  During non-business hours notify the Hollywood Area Watch Commander at 213-972-2971.  Anonymous tips can be directed to "Crime Stoppers" at 800-222-TIPS (8477).During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7.  Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone.  All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to, click on "web tips" and follow the prompts.