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Deputies face more evictions, dangers as foreclosures increase

6:55 PM, Dec 6, 2012   |    comments
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LODI, Calif. - It's a public service, but one that has become increasingly dangerous in recent months for the men and women who do it.

Home evictions are carried out by county sheriff's deputies. The agencies have seen a sharp increase of evictions in recent years because of foreclosures and unemployment.

"When they first enter, it's a dangerous time," San Joaquin County sheriff's Capt. Mike Padilla with the eviction team explained. "When they get in front of the door, it's a dangerous time."

In April, a Stanislaus County sheriff's deputy and a locksmith were shot to death as they tried to open the front door of a foreclosed condo in Modesto. On Nov. 28, an animal control officer was killed when he approached the front door of a foreclosed home in Galt.

"In both cases, the victims were shot right through the front door," Padilla said.

The sheriff's department is looking into getting ballistic door shields for the eviction officers. Officers can put the shield over the front door while the locksmith or landlord works the lock. The shield is supposed to protect officers and civilians from firearms shooting through the door. It's a device highly sought after by a number of local law enforcements.

"The companies are selling them faster than they can make them," said Padilla, explaining why the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office has yet had a chance to test the shields.

On Thursday, two deputies executed 13 court-ordered home evictions in San Joaquin County. The deputies are responsible for forcefully removing the occupant if necessary and securing the property, since the former tenant is considered a trespasser at this time.

The first location in Stockton was an apartment eviction and the rental management knew the tenant had already moved out the day before.

The next location was in Lodi and there was a problem. The tenant was still inside and the landlord said she just received notice her property was bought by a bank at a foreclosure auction yesterday. The deputies decided to proceed with the eviction while the property's ownership was disputed.

A third eviction was at an apartment in Lodi and also revealed that the occupant was still inside.

"They know we're coming on this date; there's no element of surprise," said Deputy Chief Mark Fields, on the dangers he and his partner face confronting an occupied eviction. "We're knocking and we're right there at the front door."

Deputies have repeat offenders with evictions, but it's the new ones they worry about the most. They've seen how emotional people become when they lose their homes, and sometimes their furniture and pets.

"They haven't been in this situation before," Fields said. "This is new to them and we're telling them they have to leave and they've got 5 to 10 minutes to grab what's important to them."

"When people have their whole world fall apart, especially when they've had a job loss, an illness, a death in the family, it does seem like the end of the world," Padilla explained. "And some people take measures that are dangerous."

Deputies said they know the risk, but that it isn't any different than any other time an officer puts on a uniform.

"This might be your last day; this might be your last call," Fields said. "But you just have to handle it."

Deputies said they would never put someone on the street who wasn't capable of fending for themselves. They make arrangements for the elderly, the disabled, and families with small children and no place to go.

News10/KXTV

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