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Manteca Police boot squatters from trash-filled home
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The kitchen area of a residential dwelling in the 100 block of South Lincoln Avenue was an eye opener for Manteca code enforcement officers who were having the house boarded up by a restoration crew Thursday morning. - photo by GLENN KAHL
A “Poster House” in Manteca’s code enforcement effort was discovered Thursday in the 100 block of South Lincoln Avenue – destroyed by squatters who, neighbors say, were continually in and out of the house and three rear apartments.

They were continually coming and going on foot and on bicycles, they said.

Patrolman Armen Avakian chased a man and a woman out of the front house late Wednesday afternoon who had repeatedly taken up residence in the front house where gas and electricity had been turned off.

The city is continuing to follow up with code enforcement efforts when they find abandoned homes that are a threat to the neighborhood where they are located.

The kitchen was so filled with discarded clothing and remnants of food and other household items that it was all but impossible to walk through the room. The remainder of the one-time family home was equally left in squalor with a totally unpleasant odor permeating the structure where the water had been cut off as well.  

The apartments to the back of the property were left in similar disarray.

Officer Avakian said he ordered bike-riding Jason Niemiec to leave the residence with a woman companion – both known to him from past experiences.  He added that Niemiec has a past history of home burglaries and has been ousted from the Lincoln Avenue residence in past weeks.  It has been a problem keeping transients and residential burglars from claiming the residence, he added.

Supervising code enforcement officer for the city Scott Cunningham said that clean up and restoration of houses like the one on Lincoln Avenue can cost upwards of $3,000.  He said the city attempts to charge the cost to the owner of the property – but finding that owner is often impossible.

In this case the residence – according to official paperwork – is owned by James Quinn in Boulder Creek, California.  However, authorities say he has not responded to their calls and it may be in the hands of a bank as repossession.  

Code enforcement officer Greg Baird said that when an owner cannot be located – “a phantom owner”– there is obviously no victim of a crime to charge a person at least for trespassing.  Baird added that you can use up a lot of time “chasing your tail” in trying to locate the owners of abandoned houses in the community.

A warning scrawled on the wall in felt pen read:  “I am going 2 catch you, because I want my CUT.”  Other messages had been left on walls and mirrors throughout the house and pornography was found left in the bathroom sink.  In the 1940s through the 1970s, Lincoln Streetwas the home of leaders of the community.

Cunningham said the last time officers visited the house, the windows were covered with plywood and the doors were secured.  But squatters just come back and remove the plywood covers, he added.

Once the code violations are recorded, there will be a lien on the house if the owner doesn’t take care of those violations and fines, he said.

The driveway of the residential area faces a parking lot used by several businesses in the 300 block of East Yosemite Avenue.  One of the business owners remarked that garbage was being thrown over the chain link fence by the squatters who had taken up residence.  A friend of the business owner volunteered to clean it up.

“There were always people coming and going,” they said.  “There are different people every day.”   One woman caught their attention attempting to ride off with a large speaker box she had placed on the handle bars of a bicycle – dropping it several times.

The last renter lived there with his mother and sister but they reportedly moved to Stockton at least six months ago.