Foreclosed Home Squatters Chased Out by SWAT Team

The Naples, Fla., police department doesn't fool around when it comes to ridding a foreclosed home of illegal squatters. A SWAT team, called to a foreclosed home last month due to a so-called disturbance, gassed the place in an effort to force out a possible squatter who allegedly was hiding in the attic. In the end, three people were arrested inside the home for sale; and two toddlers, ages 2 and 3, were taken by Florida Department of Children and Families.

"It makes me so sad it gives me chills," neighbor Erica Vanover told the local NBC news station. "This is a quiet neighborhood. This is the only house we have in here that's in foreclosure."

Arrested in the 1980-built home were the children's mother, 20-year-old Tatiana Gil, Mitch Werman, as well as alleged attic-croucher, 25-year-old Ryan Kiskadden, pictured, whose uncle supposedly owned the abandoned 5-bedroom, 3-bath home since November 2005. The 2,892-square-footer had been used as the address of Mel's Towing Service.

"Anytime we have houses which are abandoned, it's a place for people to go who don't have residences ," said Det. Wade Williams, of the Collier County Sheriff's Office.

If you suspect a foreclosure in your neighborhood could be a target for being illegally accessed, there are steps you can take to help prevent the situation.

Start a neighborhood crime watch program. Formally, or informally, you and your neighbors

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can band together to keep an eye on vacant foreclosed homes. Even if you don't have a formal group, ask your neighbors to report to the police any suspicious activity they see at the vacant foreclosed property.

Help with lawn maintenance. You may have to do the work yourself, alternating with neighbors on shoveling snow, or who mows the grass; or just pool money in to hire a lawn service. (Think of it as helping to keep your own property values from falling).

Have it appear as if someone's home. Even if the city has already cut the electricity, you and your neighbors can do your part by parking a car in front of the house, so would-be criminals can't easily identify the house as an obvious vacant foreclosed home.

Check with local law enforcement. But before you take on any of those tasks, check local trespass laws so you know whether doing the extra chores could land you in a bit of legal trouble.

Be proactive. If you know the neighbors are going to leave the house vacant, ask them to sign a statement giving your neighborhood watch group permission to take care of the home in their absence. Or if the home is now bank-owned, speak with its representative -- you might even get reimbursement or a contribution toward your efforts.

Sheree R. Curry
, whose small subdivision has at least one foreclosure, is a three-time award-winning journalist who has covered real estate for six years. During her 20-year career, her articles have appeared regularly in the
Wall Street Journal, TV Week, and Fortune. She's a past homeowner who has been writing for AOL Real Estate since 2009 from a Minneapolis-area rental. She seeks a book publisher -- or at least a lender who'll give a reasonable mortgage rate to a self-employed mom.

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