How to keep your property safe from trespassers

23 Nov

Although South Park looks and feels like a friendly small-town neighborhood, it’s officially an “urban environment.” That means we need to stay alert to the kinds of petty property crime you find in any city. Trespassing is part of the mix of crime that neighbors may encounter.

Several South Park neighbors and businesses, alarmed by repeated intrusions and squatting (unlawful occupation) of their properties, share this advice based on their experiences.

First, what is trespassing?

It’s when someone you don’t know steps onto your porch or opens your back gate and enters your yard. Neighbors have found trespassers looking for something to steal, a place to sleep, or a place to go the bathroom. For a business, trespassers interfere with customers by loitering and panhandling.

When a stranger makes you feel unsafe and you don’t feel comfortable confronting them yourself due to their behavior, please call the police.

The Dayton police are trained to handle trespassers who are often operating with diminished capacity. They may be homeless, mentally ill or suffering an addiction. The officers can remove them from your property and at the same time, offer them services. The DPD has a Mobile Crisis Response Team who can assess need and make appropriate referrals, such as housing and addiction recovery services.

How to have someone legally “trespassed”

However, if your “No Trespassing” signs, your personal warnings and police interventions fail, and the stranger returns to your property you have the option to have them “trespassed.” To “trespass” someone means to evict them from your premises by giving them a trespass notice. Per the notice, they are banned from ever re-entering the property where they have criminally trespassed. It requires you to work with the police and the local courts.

Paperwork involved when a citizen charges an intruder with trespassing: a subpeona, a case summary, and location card.

Working with the police and the courts

Remember, the burden of proof is on you to show that the crime of trespassing has been committed.

Step 1. Use video from your porch cameras, or phone camera and recordings as evidence of crime.

Step 2. You must verbally tell the trespasser that you are bringing charges against them. Use your camera to record yourself delivering the warning. (They don’t have to be on your property at the time. You can confront them on the sidewalk or in the alley for example.)

Step 3. Tell the police you’ve delivered the warning. Two police officers will find the stranger, warn them officially, and document the encounter. This is considered the first offense and there is no arrest.

Step 4. After a second offense, the property owner (ideally using camera evidence) calls the police who arrest the stranger. A couple days later, a bailiff will deliver a subpoena to the property owner to appear before the court to testify against the criminal trespasser. You must show up in court to successfully prosecute your case. Throughout the process, neighbors have found the guidance provided by the police and the prosecutor to be very helpful.

Step 5.  In about 3 weeks, you and the trespasser appear before the judge, each to tell your side of the story. Along with you are two police officers who appear as witnesses, and the public prosecutor and defender. If the trespasser is found guilty, they may receive up to 30 days in jail, but it’s often less.

Don’t be shy

Neighbors who’ve gone through the process stress that you can’t be shy and hope the problem will go away. The police want you call them so they can do the job they signed up for – keeping you safe! It’s also important that citizens make use of police services to keep funding and officer numbers up.  While many neighbors worry about calling police unnecessarily, your call alerts the City to our neighborhood’s need for continued or increased services.

South Park’s quality of life over the decades has been due in great part to our willingness to get to know and work with our local police. Let’s continue to take care of each other and keep South Park safe!