Empty Houses Lure Crime, Worry Neighbors - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Empty Houses Lure Crime, Worry Neighbors

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By Al Pefley email

Greenacres, FL (WFLX)

Elba Hernandez,  a divorced woman with no children, has lived in this neighborhood near Sherwood Forest Boulevard and Lake Worth Road in Greenacres for nine years. She owns her own home and works in a supermarket.

"It's very scary and truthfully they could break in, take whatever they need, " Hernandez said.

Her neighborhood, Villa Del Trios,  is dotted with homes in foreclosure.  Empty homes. Some for rent, some for sale.

And in a condo development down the street called Lakeview Gardens, you'll find more vacant units sitting empty, some of them in foreclosure.  The foreclosure signs are in the windows of some condos.

These neighborhoods have been hit by the sagging economy. The foreclosures can be a draw for burglars and thugs, who view the empty houses and condos as easy targets.  "The homes that are empty, they could take the appliances, get money for drugs," Hernandez said.

The foreclosed properties are an issue for law enforcement,  because they can create a ripe environment for break-ins. "It's definitely a problem that we've seen and that we have to deal with. We did see an increase in homes that are foreclosed  become targeted.," said Sgt.  Tom Gendreau, who's with the detective bureau of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

The latest Census  Bureau  figures show 4.5% of the homes and 16.6% of the rental apartments and condos in Florida are vacant, among the highest rates in the nation.

In south Florida, specifically Miami-Ft. Lauderdale,  3.6% of the homes are vacant, while 13.1% of the rental apartments sit empty.

Elba,  meanwhile, has a burglar alarm in her house.  But she told us  she can't help but feel a little uneasy, living alone in an area with empty homes.  "You never know who's gonna show up. They will find some way, somehow to try to get in," Hernandez explained. 

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