Reseda: LAPD narcotics detectives served two search warrants July 30, 2015, at homes just a few miles apart, netting drug dealers, drugs, stolen credit cards, computers, cash and more. But the biggest thing they got was probably the intelligence garnered on how criminals take advantage of landlord-tenant laws and the economy to further their criminal dealings.
“This investigation made it clear how drug dealers play a game of musical homes and quasi-extortion of banks to live rent free in otherwise quiet neighborhoods,” explained Capt. Paul Vernon, commanding officer of the West Valley Patrol Division. “Neighbors are our best source of information when a known vacant house has been taken over by squatters.”
Detectives served warrants at homes in the 19500 blocks of Saticoy Street and Hemingway Street after a tip from one neighbor. As it turned out, the suspects found squatting in the Saticoy house had been squatting in the Hemingway house until they found some other drug dealers to replace them. Between the two locations, detectives detained over a half-dozen people and arrested four men, booked on charges ranging from drug dealing to warrants for car theft. Detectives seized methamphetamine, heroin, prescription pills, scales, nearly a $1,000, packaging materials, scales, cellphones and computers.
For the Saticoy house, it was the second time detectives had served warrants on squatting drug dealers. “We notified the bank after the first arrest and asked them to board up the house and post the requisite signs,” added Capt. Vernon. “But they didn’t do it, and another clan found the house.”
When homes are vacant for an extended time, the owners should board them, post no-trespassing signs, and work with police to prosecute trespassers. Without these steps, trespassers can more easily occupy and establish residency, forcing the property owner to pay expensive eviction costs, or pay the squatters to move out. The real estate down-turn in 2008 contributed to a large number of home foreclosures, leading to a glut of vacant homes and the unintended crime problem of criminals squatting in homes.
Anyone with information on this crime is urged to call Det. Frank Trujillo, West Valley Narcotics Detectives, at (818) 374-7870. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to (877) LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipster 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 LAPDOnline.org, click on “webtips” and follow the prompts.