City of Richmond fights back against vandals targeting abandoned homes

RICHMOND, Calif. (KTVU) An East Bay city is trying a new approach to securing abandoned homes.

The goal is to keep vandals and criminals out, making neighborhoods safer for the people who live there.

In neighborhoods around Richmond, are the silent scars of blight. "That kind of makes the neighborhood unsure," said neighbor Leroy Arnold.

Homes are boarded up and dragging down property values for neighbors. "It's just not a good look for the city. At all," says Richmond Development Project Manager, Charice Duckworth.

But now the city is making a lot of noise about an innovative solution to stop people from breaking in to abandoned homes.

On a house on South 34th Street, city officials showed off what's called SecureView, which they say will help neighborhoods and help protect police.

They took turns hitting the window with a baseball bat and a sledgehammer, leaving nothing more than scuff marks. "If you look at it from far away, there's not even anything on there. So, it gives the officers a clear view. It gives any potential breecher a second thought, because they don't want to be seen whatever they're doing inside the property," says the Richmond Police Department's code enforcement manager, Tim Higares.

It's similar to plexiglass, because it's clear like a window, but also very different.

"You can take a baseball bat to it, you can take a sledgehammer, you can take pretty much anything that you can come up with and try to break through and you're not going to get through," explained SecureView's Louie Lujan.

Just as importantly, it is very different from the commonly used plywood. "People break in constantly, because they just use their tools to pull it off. And then I have to call code enforcement to put the plywood back on," said Duckworth.

SecureView is already in use in cities such as Phoenix and Chicago, oftentimes put in by banks that own these blighted properties.

The company that created it says that everyone appreciates the added security. "I think it's a deterrent because you can't break in," said neighbor, Leroy Arnold.

City officials are already planning to install SecureView on numerous homes, many of which, like the 34th Street house, are being rehabilitated. "And we can use the product and take it to the next property. After we complete the rehab," said Duckworth.

Officials say SecureView is 10-15 percent more expensive than plywood, but that since plywood so often has to be replaced, it will be much cheaper in the long run.