One of the unintended consequences of kicking people out of their homes that they bought with subprime mortgages is that it makes the community less safe. There are so many empty homes that the federal government is considering renting them out. This couldn't happen soon enough in Jamaica Queens, where many vacant homes are rife with drugs, prostitution, and gang members. "They're becoming a magnet for criminal activity," the commanding officer of the 113th Precinct tells the Times. "They hang out in these abandoned homes that may be foreclosed, or the owners walked away. Every day we respond to something of that effect."
Queens councilman James Sanders Jr. says, "We're seeing activities where people are having strip shows in these homes." A neighbor and activist notes that, "you see them smoking their drugs in the driveway at night. They have parties. If the cops come, they run. During the day, they're quiet as a church mouse." This summer, police raided one vacant home and found two loaded guns, cocaine, marijuana, bags for selling drugs and $1,100 in cash. Three people who were squatting were charged with gun and drug crimes.
Though the police don't usually keep statistics on criminal activity in vacant or foreclosed homes, the 113th Precinct has begun keeping a list of homes that appear to shelter criminals. Right now, the list stands at 75 homes, with another 25 to be added by the NYC Department of Buildings and elected officials to keep watch. "It's destroying our quality of life," Jamaica councilman Leroy Comre Jr. says. "We can't say, 'Ah, we tried, and it's not working.'"