"Hi, we're going around the neighborhood today," said Lindsay Hughes, a community service officer with the Fresno Police Department. She has been talking with residents in Southeast Fresno about the rise in crime found inside vacant homes.
"I would just see a couple people in and out breaking windows, sleeping in the back," said Racquel Aguilar. The foreclosed house across Aguilar's residence has been empty for almost two years and in that time has attracted many unwanted guests. Officers say vacant houses with unattended lawns attract squatters and illegal activity. "People are using the garages as chop shops, they're doing drug activity in the homes. They're stealing property from inside the homes," said Hughes.
Early this month, Fresno Police arrested 28 year old Kachai Lee for using a vacant home to buy, sell and use narcotics. And police are trying to put a stop to these crimes by asking neighbors to keep an eye on the empty units and report suspicious activity. "The neighbors are a little reluctant to call the police because they fear retaliation. We talked to a couple of neighbors who were afraid of that because the nature of the people who are coming around are pretty questionable," said Hughes.
"I really don't feel too safe because there's always the time when my kids are out by themselves at home and they can do something," said Gloria Herrera. Herrera lives next to a property that's gone unrented for a year but has seen a lot of crime. "A lot of vandalism. A lot of homeless people breaking into homes. Some of the kids breaking in having parties," said Herrera.
Residents just hope the new vigilance campaign curbs the criminal activity and makes their neighborhoods safer.