City working with police to keep squatters out of vacant houses

The effort that's underway is a cooperative process between the police and the Working in Neighborhoods Department. (KTUL)

TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) - A home that burned early Wednesday at Latimer near Pine and Harvard will be demolished by the city of Tulsa. It's part of a city effort to indentify unsafe vacant homes and keep them vacant.

While police have been regularly checking the condemned house, someone may have been in the home when the fire started.

The effort that's underway is a cooperative process between the police and the Working in Neighborhoods Department.

If a complaint is made, and the home isn't up to code, it's condemned.

A yellow sticker is placed on the front door to make it clear to everyone that it can't be occupied until it's fixed up.

It's an effort to keep squatters from using vacant homes for drug activity and other crimes.

When the sticker is on the door, the police can move people out immediately.

WIN housing Supervisor, Brant Pitchford, said it eliminates a lot of confusion.

Pitchford said, "The thing we were handicapped before with was not knowing who had the right to be here. Once you have no utilities or have other code violations, it doesn't matter. If you own the property, our you're in the property, you don't have the right to be here now."

The homes are also flagged in the police computer system.

So, if there's a call to the property, or they're checking on it, they know where they stand.

Squatters can't create a smoke screen of excuses.

Officer Chris Bender said they've heard it all.

"I've got a rental contract or a lease agreement with somebody, but they can't produce a name or they don't know a phone number to that invidual. Oftentimes, they say I have permission from the owner," Bender said.

Both departments believe the cooperative effort helps them to clean up our neighborhoods.

People who live near the burned-out home are glad it can no longer be used illegally.

Deanna Guiltner said the people who were there sometimes worried her.

"It's not a good thing at all for anybody. Not just us but anybody in the neighborhood, because you dont know whats happening." Guiltner said.

Now, she has the comfort of knowing the home will soon be gone.

Anyone can report a problem property to the police through the city WIN Department or the city 3-1-1 line.

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