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Officials launch program to protect vacant SCV homes

Posted: February 7, 2009 1:28 a.m.
Updated: February 7, 2009 7:08 p.m.
 

When real estate agent Charlene Sarnecki recently went to a supposedly vacant home in Canyon Country, she found sleeping bags, beer cans on the fireplace and some lights on.

If not maintained, secured and frequently checked, many vacant Santa Clarita Valley homes lost in foreclosure become targets for vandals, thieves and people looking for free shelter, real estate officials said.

“What happened ... was that the utilities were turned off, and grass would die, putting up a red flag that no one lived there,” said Chris Durban, a fellow agent at Prudential California Realty in Valencia.

To protect these homes, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff Station’s Crime Prevention Unit, the city of Santa Clarita and Los Angeles County, launched a “Vacant House Check” program in which deputies, volunteers, reserve deputies and other Sheriff’s employees work with property owners and real estate agents.

“Now that the sheriffs are coming in to monitor (vacant properties) in Santa Clarita, this should help as well,” Durban said.

The program staffers will check vacant houses, condominiums, businesses and other structures.

House and property checks will generally consist of exterior perimeter checks using only areas accessible to the public. Station personnel will check areas where access can be obtained without obstruction, unless a crime in progress or serious safety hazard is identified.

Sarnecki said local agents would “absolutely” use the program.

“In an effort to best protect our residents, we must continuously evaluate current events and unique challenges affecting our communities,” said Captain Anthony La Berge of the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station.

“We are excited about this new program and look forward to yet another way we can stay closely connected to the residents and neighborhoods we serve.”

To report a vacant or abandoned structure that appears to be run-down or attracting a criminal element, fill out the form at www.scvsheriff.com/vacanthouse.

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