City officials offer advice after squatters spotted on Savannah' - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

City officials offer advice after squatters spotted on Savannah's eastside

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)

While the City of Savannah is making an effort to shore up the numbers of abandoned houses within city limits, there are still some out there - maybe next to your home.

What would you do if you saw what looked like illegal activity going on in an abandoned house? That very question recently came up on Savannah's Eastside Alliance Facebook page. 

A woman living on Mississippi Avenue wondered what course of action she needed to take.

According to the concerned neighbor, it appeared that some people were squatting in the vacant home for days at a time before a new group would come in, sneaking into the house through a back entrance. Several Eastside Alliance members responded to call 911, but some said to call code enforcement, or an alderman. While there eventually seemed to be a resolution to a course of action, we decided to get the city's take on what to do. 

"If you see someone entering into a home that you are pretty sure they are not supposed to be in, then you can call 911, because that is criminal trespass. So, we definitely want to encourage people to think safety first, and reach out to the police if they see any kind of criminal activity or suspicious behavior going on at one of these houses. Go ahead and let police know," said Saja Aures, PIO, City of Savannah. 

Call 911. That's the answer the city gave when asked what you should do if you suspect an abandoned house is being occupied by squatters. ?

"The police work with the individual or individuals who are squatting, to get them out of the house. And then the city, the property maintenance department, works with the property owner to make sure that home is boarded and secured. Because the main thing is we want to make sure folks aren't entering the house for any reason if it's uninhabitable,” said Aures.

The recent post on the neighborhood Facebook page was concerned not only about the potential squatting, but also the potential for criminal activity, beyond the apparent trespassing.

"Criminal activity takes place in vacant houses that are broken into. So, it's an unsafe atmosphere for folks, and it's obviously not anything we want in our neighborhoods,” said Aures.

"The issue is not people staying in them. The issues are people going by stealing what they can get out of them, as far as like copper and the air-conditioners,” said Savannah resident Jesse Cuspert.

Cuspert has lived in Savannah for years, but says he has a new reason to be more aware of the vacant properties that dot his street on Savannah's westside.

"I just got engaged, and I have a family at home now with kids. So I do be concerned about strangers and people living in the vacant houses. But again, the people who own the properties around here, they kind of keep it up. And the code inspectors make sure that everything stays boarded up and they don't see anything loose,” said Cuspert.

WTOC did ask police if there were any problem areas for squatters in abandoned or vacant properties in Savannah. But the call for police to check those situations out is coded as Prowler/Trespass, Check Building or Check Suspicious Person, and that literally happens thousands of times a year all around town.

So it's harder than you'd think to pinpoint. 

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