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Rancho Park residents troubled by increased crime in usually quiet neighborhood

Rancho Park neighbors frustrated by rise in crime in usually quiet neighborhood
Rancho Park neighbors frustrated by rise in crime in usually quiet neighborhood 02:26

A troubling wave of crime has some residents living on edge in the usually quiet Rancho Park neighborhood, and they're hoping that city officials can finally address the issue before things get too far. 

Neighbors say that it all began when the elderly owner of a home at the end of the street was hospitalized for an extended period. The property, which was visibly unoccupied as it soon became overgrown with vegetation, then became a target for quatters. 

"People broke in repetitively, stole a bunch of stuff and were squatting there," said a man living on the street named Alex. 

When the owner died, the squatters stayed, and that's when neighbors say the incidents really escalated. 

"More break-ins, there was an assault with a deadly weapon for somebody who tried to step in, cars stolen, wheels stolen off cars," Alex said. "So, this is a network of people who are committing crimes and targeting abandoned houses, using it as a nesting place to launch criminal activity."

Police have been called to the neighborhood several times, and at one point several of the squatters were arrested, but only for a short time before they were let go — even after allegedly breaking into someone's home. 

"They couldn't prove that they were robbing anything and ended up un-cuffing them and they went around the corner and came back the next day and weeks," said a woman named Gabriella. 

She says that she's now nervous walking in her own neighborhood. 

"I walk around with my dog a lot. I'm from New Jersey and I felt more safe over there than I do walking around this neighborhood," she said. "I bring pepper spray. I take that with me everywhere I go now."

Alex says that so far their attempts to get city leaders involved have been unsuccessful, so he invested his own money to try and deter the thieves from breaking into his elderly neighbor's home. 

"I nailed up and chained up things," he said. "They broke it down again, they continued to break in."

He says that two people were arrested recently after they assaulted one of the neighbors who tried to stop in and stop a break-in with bolt cutters, but only after everything of value was taken from the homes that were constantly being targeted. 

"I pay a lot of taxes down here, property taxes, sales taxes are really high," Alex said. "I'd like to see that going into, you know, deterring this crime, not just getting more lackadaisical because that sends the message that people can go away unchecked and commit crimes."

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