A New Year spike in property crime in Eagle Rock that included five stolen vehicles over four days might be at least partially connected to squatters occupying foreclosed or abandoned houses—a phenomenon that peaked in the summer of 2012 in Highland Park, according to a Los Angeles Police Department officer who specializes in crime analysis.
Last summer, when squatters occupied a foreclosed house near Avenue 57 and the Arroyo Seco 110 freeway, the LAPD noticed an increase in grand theft auto and in burglaries from motor vehicles, Officer Curtis Davis, who is part of the LAPD’s Northeast Community Station Crime Analysis Detail, told Patch in an interview Monday.
“Some of the people who were staying at the house, it turned out, had prior histories for those types of crimes,” Davis said. “So we started figuring that this problem might be replicated elsewhere in the division.”
Wiota Street in eastern Eagle Rock, where a vehicle was stolen and another burglarized on Jan. 2, is one of the areas mentioned in the public feedback to the LAPD.
“We have a slight uptick in crime in the area,” Davis said, adding that patrols along the street have been ramped up during the past week. Davis said he is not aware of other areas in the neighborhood where foreclosed or abandoned houses might be creating similar problems. (In July 2012, a foreclosed house on La Roda Avenue, near the corner of Colorado Boulevard was so severely vandalized that it outraged neighbors and prompted an inquiry by the office of Councilmember José Huizar.)
From Jan. 8 through Jan. 11, three vehicles were stolen and two burglarized across Eagle Rock—none on Wiota Street—according to CrimeMapping.com, the nationwide law enforcement crime database to which the LAPD contributes statistics.
The property crimes along Wiota appear to be related to “a couple of recently foreclosed houses that have attracted some squatters and other unsavory folks,” Davis acknowledged writing in a recent Facebook correspondence that he had with Eagle Rock resident Brian Chambers, who posted the officer’s note on the Eagle Rock Patch Facebook page.
"We are absolutely ramping up patrols in the area," reads the message from Davis. “One of the houses is getting boarded up this week. We're working with the City Attorney's office on it, and if that doesn't work we'll go straight to the banks.”
Davis declined to give any specific addresses for fear that people might “take the law into their own hands.”
A house on 4924 Wiota St.—on the south end of the street near Colorado Boulevard—that was occupied until November 2012 appears not to have attracted any attracted any squatters lately, according to Armen Aroyan, a real estate agent who is managing the property. An immediate neighbor of the house, which is scheduled to come on the market shortly, according to Aroyan, also reported not hearing or seeing any recent disturbances on his block.
Chambers told Patch that he saw LAPD patrol cars parked outside a possibly foreclosed or abandoned house last week at the north end of the 4700 block of Wiota Street, near the Yosemite Drive intersection.
The Northeast Community Station’s Facebook page began actively inviting feedback from the public about property crimes around abandoned or foreclosed houses last summer, Davis told Patch.
“We got some pretty good feedback,” he said. “In fact, the responses surprised us and since then we’ve put together a map [for patrol officers] where some of these abandoned or foreclosed properties that we know of are—and we can compare that to some of the crime in the area.”
The Northeast Station’s social media activities have been “really huge for us because they have opened up lines of communication so much more,” Davis said. “We always try to have a good rapport with our communities but they have really become partners with us over the 2012 year.