PIMMEX offers $250 reward for vandalized home sites
August 5, 2016
Gila River Indian News
New houses are being broken and abused before they are even finished being built, resulting in damages to the tune of thousands of dollars and delaying move-in dates for families waiting on new homes.
After what the Department of Community Housing is calling “a series of malicious acts of vandalism,” PIMMEX Commercial and Residential Building Co. is offering a cash reward of $250 for information leading to the arrest and indictment of those responsible.
In June, a number of new homes under construction in the Lone Butte, Pedro and Sacate Housing Subdivisions were found with broken windows, spray paint on the walls, torn down drywall, damaged exterior insulating foam, and other marks of vandalism. The houses were being built by PIMMEX under contract with GRIC DCH.
PIMMEX has built over 200 houses for Community members in the four years since it started doing business in Gila River. Over that time, the number of incidents of vandalism at new home worksites has increased.
“They have experienced vandalism in the past,” said Paul Flores, project manager for DCH. “But…they haven’t experienced this amount of vandalism ever.”
All of the homes under construction in the Sacate and Pedro subdivisions had windows busted. The average cost to replace a busted out window is $270, and in some cases the vandals can break up to six windows.
“They’re dual pane,” said PIMMEX Field Operations Manager Danny Bowerman. “They break the first one…and then they throw rocks at the pane on the inside. We can come into a house and there will be 4 or 5 rocks inside the room.”
Other culprits are entering the properties with the intention of stealing copper, presumably to sell as salvage material.
People have destroyed drywall and cabinets in the houses under construction to get at the copper in the walls, said Bowerman. But, “The replacement cost is usually way, way greater than the cost of what they’re getting for salvaged stuff. … So they get $50 worth of copper, but it costs us $2,000-$3,000 to replace what they took and fix what they destroyed in the process of doing it.”
Other criminals aren’t as particular about the kind of damage they cause.
“We had a project,” a while back, said Bowerman, “where they broke the windows, the cops came, we took pictures, the cops left, and within a couple hours [the vandals] came back and broke more windows. And then they turned the sinks on and they flooded the whole house. So that was about a $10,000 fix.”
Repair costs quickly add up, plus the contractor has to deal with the associated increase in insurance costs.
Bowerman said, “In the long run it’s costing the Community money and time...because our insurance rates go up. When we bid [to build new homes], we have to account for coming in here and boarding these up like we do...and that cost is (potentially) passed on in the cost of building the house.”
The Community pays, on average, $200,000 to build each new house.
“They’re not anything cheap,” said Bowerman. “When we’re done, they’re nice-looking, stuccoed up and painted up and it’s a nice home for somebody.”
Cost for Families
The primary concern is not just the dollar cost associated with repairing the damage, it’s the time delay caused by the extra work, which means families have to wait longer for their new house. Broken windows can delay the completion of a home anywhere from a couple weeks to a month, even more if the damage is repeated.
In response to the vandalism, Devin Redbird, District 7 Council Representative and member of the GRIC Housing Owners Team said, “For Community members, owning their own home is a lifelong dream.”
“Many [on waiting lists] have been patient for several years. When they see their house begin to be constructed, it gives them a sense of family and pride. The Community invests a lot of time and money into constructing a home for our members. … There is no reason for someone to vandalize a fellow relative or Community member’s home in such a disrespectful manner.”
DCH has a security force that works in conjunction with the Gila River Police Department.
“[They] patrol DCH subdivisions to prevent and reduce crime within the subdivisions as well as monitoring areas where crime is increased, like these subdivisions where construction is going on,” said DCH head of security Derwin Cooper.
To prevent and reduce the incidences of vandalism, DCH recently boosted security in areas where they’ve experienced higher rates of crime, but they still have to leave those areas for mandatory patrols in other DCH complexes or service calls.
Additionally, the contractors put up fences around the houses to protect the homes, but people either find a way inside, or simply toss the rocks at windows from afar.
DCH suspects the offenders are residents of the neighborhood, most likely juveniles, who are aware of the security forces and know when they have left their neighborhood.
“They monitor [our security forces], they watch the security staff when they’re out there,” said Cooper, but when the security has to leave for any other reason, the offenders seem to know it and take those opportunities to strike.
Not Caught in the Act
So who is committing these acts of vandalism?
It is hard to say. The police and construction workers haven’t caught anyone in the act of vandalism, and without evidence it can be hard to identify the culprits.
That is why DCH and PIMMEX are asking Community members, especially neighbors of the new homes, to step forward if they have any information about the offenders.
Officials suspect the individuals responsible for the damage may be neighborhood juveniles, rather than strangers to the Community, and are asking young people who may have heard talk of the crimes to report it.
The houses under construction in the Sacate and Pedro subdivisions are meant to be used as rental properties to help low-income families get a home at an affordable rate, based on their income.
“These are actually Community-owned houses [that] are rented back to Community members,” said Bowerman. “So we would hope that somebody in these neighborhoods would be watching out for the Community and realize that they’re destroying Community property.”
If you have any information regarding these incidents, you can contact the DCH Housing Services Manager Debbie Mercado at (520) 562-3904.