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Residents fret squatters taking over neighborhood
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LATHROP – Melody Bayardo just wants to see what’s left of her unique little slice of town go back to the way that it once was.

Squatters, drug dealers and chop-shop operators, she says, have been regular staples in the lots along Park Street – the unusual unpaved road off of McKinley Avenue that is home to residential lots as well as businesses near the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

For the second time last week Bayardo approached the Lathrop City Council and asked for assistance with what she described as conditions that have become “unlivable” for some of those in the vicinity, and stressed concerns about the safety and welfare of the families with small children.

Since her first visit to the council, police presence in the area has increased, she says, but enforcement only seems to drive away people who just end up coming back later after the police or code enforcement units leave.

“It’s just really frustrating because a lot of the squatters down here on abandoned lots are in RVs, so they’ll just pick up and move when the police come and then come right back,” she said. “The police come down because they know of one guy selling drugs out of one, but there’s a lot of stuff going on out here.

“They’re chopping cars and selling the parts, and a lot of these squatters don’t have running water or sewer or anything like that. It’s not sanitary and it’s a health risk.”

But according to Lathrop Police Services Lieutenant Chris Pehl, the majority of the issues that they’ve come across in their recent patrols have been related to issues of code enforcement and blight – people not being where they’re supposed to or living in a unit that is far below standards that are considered acceptable.

Pehl says that the police have stepped up their patrols and they did discover a stolen tractor-trailer during their initial patrols, but future visits – which will be regular – will be to make sure that things don’t return to the way that they once were.

“Basically the issues that we faced out there were code enforcement issues and they handled most of what needed to be taken care of. Most of it was blight,” he said. “We will still be making regular patrols because blight attracts blight, and we certainly want to do whatever we can to help that situation.”

The unique layout of the houses and the lots along Park Street are a result of Union Pacific selling off 50x50-foot parcels that were initially intended for use as staff housing. Residents and businesses bought up multiple parcels to construct buildings to their liking, and the purchase of other additional lots in recent years have made for even larger businesses – like trucking companies – to move in.