Last week police, marshals and the health district searched apartments in an area of Las Vegas known as Naked City. They found stolen merchandise and evidence of people inhabiting rooms with raw sewage on the floor. KNPR's Ky Plaskon reports on the slum.
PLASKON: People looking for a cheap place to live call the Monterey Village Apartments.
SOUND: Answering machine
PLASKON: They are located between the Stratosphere and interstate 15.
SOUND: Ice Cream truck
PLASKON: People who don't want to pay anything at all, don't call, they can just walk in.
SOUND: Slamming Gate
RESIDENT: That gate is supposed to be secured and it is not secured like they promised.
PLASKON: This resident rented a room with her niece.
RESIDENT: I had just got off of work and she had just got off of work and she found her lock drilled and she went to confront the people and ask them what happened and she said the cops did it and later found out that the health department did it.
PLASKON: Last week the health department and police pried open and closed 24 of 80 apartments here. They also arrested 6 people. Metropolitan Police Department Seargent Erik Fricker.
RESIDENT: All of the vacant apartments in that area were all ex felons known drug dealers or prostitutes continuing their criminal enterprise with out management having any knowledge of that as far as we could tell. The city has been down there several times and boarded up some the apartments.
PLASKON: Despite the police activity, late on Friday evening some apartments with official closed signs were left completely open for anyone to walk into over the weekend.
SOUND: Opening door
PLASKON: This apartment has a desk with a candle on it. On the walls are posters of naked women. Fast food wrappers from the 7-eleven across the street litter the desk.
LOITERER: I'll holler at you in a little bit.
PLASKON: A man with gold teeth loiters in front of the complex and 7-eleven as people wander in and out of apartments.
PASSERBY: No I am not interested, you know I don't know anything.
RESIDENT: I don't even know if these people are paying rent here. They look like they were homeless, when I cam over here yesterday there was a couple in the back with a child in the car smoking crack. And they were probably in some of those closed apartments.
PLASKON: Another resident is trying to clean his apartment.
RESIDENT: Ya deben cerar estas, la carpeta ya esta muy fea.
PLASKON: Despite the fact that he lives here, he says the city should close down all of the apartments.
LEASSOR: Oh, son para la chingada.
PLASKON: Even the manager that leased that resident the apartment agrees. On Friday he was sitting slumped outside an apartment.
LEASSOR: No hechada nada, son mal pues.
PLASKON: For the same reasons evident today, the complex was nearly demolished in the late 90's. But it wasn't always like this. In 1998 a group of three entrepreneurs refurbished the property garnering praise from city officials.
DURANT: We took it from a slum and turned it back into nice apartments.
PLASKON: But owner Leo Durant needed more than praise from the city. He said he tried to get the police to crack down on drug dealing in the neighborhood.
DURANT: We gave them an apartment to use in there as a police substation but they sort of lost interest and it went back to where it was.
PLASKON: Sergeant Fricker said the offer of free office space is a common one from apartment owners, but the police don't have the staff for them. But managers of Monterey Villas call it an issue of priorities. In December of 2002 Monterey Villas managers complained to local media that police were driving drug addicts off of Freemont street and into the Monterey area. The owner who had rehabbed the property, Leo Durant washed his hands of it two years ago by selling it. Because of the state of the property now under the new owner, Pro Residential, the city threatened to revoke the company's business license last week. But the city's own records show Pro Residential hasn't ever had a business license, even though city codes require a new license be issued when a business is sold. Hearshy Rogers was in one of the Monterey apartments yesterday. He wonders why the city didn't crack down on the owner.
ROGERS: If the building is not legally rentable why are they accepting rent. Why am I being harassed.
PLASKON: The city's business license department said there are thousands of businesses operating without licenses and it didn't even know who the owner is. Leo Durant, the building's former owner says he told the city who the new owners are.
DURANT: Ya, I had contact with them and everything, I gave them the names and everything.
PLASKON: The business licensing department is researching if it has ever even issued a citation or cease and desist order to Pro Residential as is customary when a company operates without a business license.
FRICKER: As you yourself found out, there is a good chance they don't even have a license to operate.
PLASKON: Metro Seargent Erik Fricker says he didn't learn until this week that the owner hasn't had a business license. So he cited a representative of Pro Residential with a Misdemeanor for operating without it. It is a crime carries a maximum fine of 1,000 dollars and or 6 months in jail. Fricker says he will also recommend the apartments be deemed an imminent hazard and closed down. But in order to close them down he'll have to get the city's help. A closure order requires permission from the City Manager. City Communications Director David Riggleman said before the city could close it down it would have a plan to re-locate the people living in 40 apartments there. It would be better if the owner fix up the property he said, rather than just board it up. The owner, Pro Residential sent a new manager yesterday. Miguel Godinez said he came to fix it up. But he admits the company's track record isn't very good with properties it manages in LA.
PLASKON: Do they all look like this?
GODINEZ: No, worser. A lot worser. These are nice compared to those down there.
Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR