Foreclosure and Crime: An Endless Cycle?
By: Gerri L. Elder
While foreclosure is a civil issue and not a criminal matter, a recent report by KNBC News shows that foreclosure filings often lead to crime.
The Inland Empire area of California has been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. The area has recently ranked as high as second nationwide in the number of foreclosure filings.
The surge in foreclosure filings has not only displaced many families, but also appears to be a factor in the rising crime rate in the Inland Empire area. In recent months, there has been an increase in animal abandonment, drug crimes, arson and other criminal activity in the vicinity.
The crime rate has steadily risen in tandem with the rate of foreclosure filings. This has enabled law enforcement to identify the correlation between the foreclosure and crime rates. It seems that foreclosures open doors for criminal activity.
In July, foreclosures in the Inland Empire area jumped by 8 percent. This increase made the area the sixth-highest nationwide for foreclosures.
Because of the many recent foreclosures, evictions and the subsequent increase in crime, many homeowners who are still able to make their mortgage payments are worried. While they have been able to keep their homes, foreclosures have changed their neighborhoods.
Some homeowners wonder how bad it will get and if their homes will be worth keeping in the long run. Experts say that the foreclosure epidemic in the area will get worse before any improvement can be expected.
A home in San Bernardino that was lost in foreclosure mysteriously burned, just weeks after the homeowners were evicted. Police say that the fire is being called suspicious. This possible arson is not the only incidence of a recently foreclosed home catching on fire in the area.
Other foreclosed homes have been searched and found stocked full of marijuana plants. After foreclosure, these homes have been set up as drug houses to grow and sell pot.
Some arrests have been made in these drug houses. In others, however, the drug dealers have vanished by the time the cops arrive. With so many empty houses in the area, it is easy enough for them to find another foreclosed property to use.
These suspected arsons and drug operations, experts say, are a direct product of mortgage foreclosures.
Another sad criminal act that police say can be attributed to the wave of mortgage foreclosures is animal abandonment. At one foreclosed property in the area, starving horses were found. Other animals have not been lucky enough to have been found in time.
In other areas of the country, reports of foreclosed homes being stripped of metals are flooding police departments.
The Kansas CW recently reported that thieves are targeting foreclosed homes and stripping them of the metals in the plumbing, electrical systems, furnaces and air conditioners.
These crimes rarely result in arrests and cost the bank owners of these properties big bucks. While the metals that are stolen can usually be sold as scrap for less than $100, the damages to the home can cost thousands of dollars to repair.
As a result of increased criminal activity in foreclosure-ravaged areas, banks often find foreclosed properties difficult to sell.
It’s a catch-22. Unless the homes are occupied and kept in good repair, they are an invitation for criminals. Yet the foreclosed homes cannot be kept in good repair and sold because of the criminal activity that they attract.
And so the vicious cycle of foreclosures and crime continues with no end in sight.