Photos: Riverside Place Neighbor, March 24, 2011.
According to a neighbor who shot these photos, the new owner of a long-vacant house on Riverside Place discovered a squatter sleeping inside today. He called the police.
Senior Lead Officer Al Polehonki was among the LAPD officers responding to the call. Ten days ago, a Riverside Place neighbor alerted the neighbors and SLO Polehonki via email that the squatter who'd taken up residence about a year ago and was running some kind of business in the same house, had returned. The neighbor included a photo of the squatter's car and license plates in the email to Polehonki and the neighbors. Since then, neighbors had been on high alert.
Until today, neighbors had not met the new owner of the house that had been vacant for several years. It sold at County Tax Assessor's auction last year, after the owner had been in a nursing home for four years. According to public records, the house had recently sold again.
Neighbors had called the police several times in recent weeks to report the squatter, but the LAPD will only respond to the property owner's call reporting a trespasser.
It pays to know your neighbors - they would have gladly called the new property owner as soon as they saw the squatter back again. The squatter actually told some of the neighbors that he was the new owner. Our sharp-eyed neighbors recognized the squatter from last year and immediately shared their stories via email.
*3/25/11 UPDATE: LAPD Senior Lead Officer Al Polehonki returned my call to follow up on the squatting incident. In keeping with the City Attorney's policy on squatters, the police ordered the squatter to vacate the property. If they catch him there again, he will be arrested. The squatter made arrangements with the property owner to meet at the property and retrieve his belongings next week. The owner plans to fix up the long neglected property, so work crews should be at the site in the next few weeks.
The property owner also signed a "trespass order" (on file at the Northeast LAPD Station) so the police can make arrests in the future. The owner will also have to post a required "No Trespassing" sign. This will also make it easier for neighbors to call the police on any future squatter activity there.
Polehonki added that squatting in long vacant houses is becoming more common all over the City. Squatters will even request utility service in their names, receive mail, move belongings in and park cars in the driveway.
If you suspect squatters in your neighborhood, track down the property owner and ask them to check the property and call the police. It pays to know your neighbors.