I-Team: 'John One' Neighborhood Focus of Police - 8 News NOW

I-Team: 'John One' Neighborhood Focus of Police

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LAS VEGAS -- When police officers call a neighborhood "a hot mess," you know it's bad.

But instead of writing it off, Metro Police officer are trying something new for the neighborhood they call "John One."

Homes and apartments along Boulder Highway near Desert Inn Road is gripped with poverty.

Squatters break into vacant homes -- busting into their own apartments after getting evicted --- and even stealing home security cameras.

It's a neighborhood where apartment managers -- in some cases -- just stopped caring to fix hazardous living conditions.

Despite all this, some residents said their streets are beginning to become safer.

Officer Andrew Hefner knows these streets.

Born in Las Vegas, Hefner has seen the neighborhood near the Boulder Strip show the scars of recession long before the rest of the Las Vegas valley.

John One is more than some lines on a Metro patrol map, it's a state of mind.

It's where young children watch slightly older children get busted for drug and where ghosts are real, as homeless people hiding in vacant homes.

It's also where landlords don't care enough to fix their buildings, using the fear of what happens to complaining tenants.

"We lost a lot of good managers in some of the apartment complexes and I think they are a little less strict on whom they allow in," Hefner said. "It increased in robberies."

Officer Hefner's day begins when a man calls police saying somebody is inside a vacant trailer next door.

A boot print can be seen next to the eviction notice and somebody stole a new air conditioning unit and switched it with a junked one.

Not long after, another call of squatters inside a vacant home.

"Who's house is this?" Hefner asks a squatter.

"Not ours, man," the squatter told Hefner.

Hefner: "Then why are you here?"

Squatter: "We're homeless."

Neighbor Kurt Kasslar said he is fed up.

"I've had my car windows broken out," he said. "I've installed a camera on my house. That got stolen … From the outside of the house. So I installed a new on the inside of the window."

Neighbors spotted a man inside the vacant house and a K-9 officer was called out to assist.

The officers called to the man and told him to come out, but he slipped out the back.

Between the two squatters, they had a blanket, a large bottle of soap and are expecting a child.

Neighbors said they saw a man breaking into an apartment he had been evicted from earlier in the day.

"You're going to jail for your warrant," Hefner said to James McMurray, the man breaking into his former apartment.

"I don't have to," said McMurray, detained for trespassing. "I got things to do."

To this, Hefner replied, "Listen. You were evicted today, right? You were told not to come back to this apartment."

Despite neighbors telling Hefner they saw him inside the apartment, McMurray denied entering the apartment after he was evicted.

Over on Macher Way, a street well-known to Metro Police, Hefner would drive by the damaged apartment buildings at night knowing that he alone could not do anything for people living inside.

One morning, that changed.

Officers, firefighters, code enforcement and social welfare workers came in force to Macher Way.

The cluster of apartment buildings had become so bad with hazardous living conditions, it could no longer be ignored.

Metro's southeast area command, which oversees the area, is Capt. Vincent Cannito's turf.

The "John One initiative," the push for more community policing, is his to lead.

"You can take a look at these buildings," Cannito said. "You can look at the problems with the windows that are boarded up. You can take a look at the wires that are down -- these are very dangerous situations. When you take a look at the fire extinguishers, none of them have a repellent in them, they're all empty. That's no way to live."

An apartment could be seen where a car had punched through a wall.

"The landlords here are used to extorting (residents)," police officer Shaun Woodard said. "Threatening them with immigration status -- whether it be an increase in rent, to pay late fees, to do certain things, they'll call immigration if they don't comply. In any other world, that's extortion."

Complex by complex, street by street, compliance sweeps and increased patrols might help. It is the last best hope for a neighborhood used to neglect..

Most of the landlords in the neighborhood were out of state and only one of them returned the I-Team's calls.

He stated he is paying to fix water and wall damage on his buildings. Arnold Forget of Iowa said he fired his previous management company when he discovered how many maintenance issues were left unfixed.

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