SUISUN CITY — The Suisun City Council gave its police chief the green light Tuesday to include the city in a pilot program to give them more teeth when it comes to dealing with squatters in vacant houses.
The program, which would be created by Assembly Bill 1513, would allow owners of vacant properties to register them with the police as being unoccupied, and require the owners to pay a private security service to inspect the property once every three days, calling police if someone is squatting on the property.
The bill, currently on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, only applies to Palmdale, Lancaster and the County of Los Angeles, but Suisun City could ask to be included before the bill is signed into law. If signed, the law will take effect Jan. 1.
Since the downturn of the housing market, Suisun City has seen an increase in the number of squatters taking up residency in vacant or foreclosed homes, according to a report to the City Council from Suisun City Police Chief Ed Dadisho. Police records show the department has responded to 223 calls for service related to squatters since Jan. 1, 2012.
Despite trespassing laws, Dadisho said that it is hard for his officers to take action because the illegal tenancies are civil cases in most cases, not criminal ones.
Dadisho said that officers have difficulty taking action because the crime is a misdemeanor not committed in their presence, “and most people reporting the trespass decline taking any criminal action against the squatters.”
“This would give us some teeth in going after squatters,” Dadisho said.
Only City Councilman Mike Hudson voted no on the idea, saying he did not see it helping residents, but the banks who control most of the foreclosed and vacant homes.
Both Vice Mayor Lori Wilson and City Councilman Mike Segala voiced their support despite saying they still had some issues with it. They pointed out it was a pilot program and the bugs would be ironed out.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.