South Surrey residents say houses left sitting empty for months on end are driving up crime – and the rat population – in their neighbourhood.
Fil Bettencourt and Al Davies say two houses sitting empty in the 15600-block of 28 Avenue and another in the 2900-block of 160 Street are regularly targeted by scavengers and other miscreants.
“The abandoned houses, you can hear more than you can see,” said Davies. “It’s nightly. They’re around here all the time… looking for opportunities.”
Davies said his car has been broken into twice, activity he’s sure is connected to the structures.
A neighbour of the house on 160 Street said she has phoned police to report concerns at least five times since October, and has been to the mayor’s office at least three times.
“This has been going on for… eight months,” said the woman, who asked to not be identified.
“For me, it’s a crime factor,” she said. “I just feel very unsafe. It attracts that element.”
Bettencourt said Thursday the rats and crime are only getting worse.
But while the neighbours say the police and city need to do more to address the problem, officials from both groups say steps are being taken.
Jas Rehal, Surrey’s manager of bylaw enforcement, said last month that officers, in collaboration with police, continue to monitor the two houses on 28 Avenue.
“We’re trying to get a handle on it,” he said.
The owner has applied to demolish the structures, he said, and “we’ll work with them to expediate the process.”
Such owners are expected to ensure their properties are kept secure and tidy, he said.
Cpl. Bert Paquet confirmed the South Surrey RCMP Crime Reduction Unit is also aware of the concerns.
Identified as “hotspots,” police have bumped up patrols in the area, but have not noted a significant increase in crime as a result of the two sites, he said.
Paquet encouraged residents who are seeing suspicious activity or individuals to always alert police.