Signs to mark vacant houses

Ben LeahyNorth West Telegraph
Pilbara police officers Steven Standish, Jo McCabe and Larry Miller join Sharon Van Der Sluis and a colleague from the Department of Housing.
Camera IconPilbara police officers Steven Standish, Jo McCabe and Larry Miller join Sharon Van Der Sluis and a colleague from the Department of Housing. Credit: North West Telegraph

The Department of Housing will begin signposting vacant government houses across the Pilbara and Gascoyne in a bid to prevent thousands of dollars damage from vandals and squatters.

Unveiling the initiative with police in Newman last week, the department and contractor Pindan will use large signs to mark vacant houses undergoing upgrade or maintenance work.

Police Superintendent Jo McCabe hoped this would help the public to report suspicious behaviour and the police to identify vandals and squatters.

She said Newman had been a hotspot for such behaviour because government houses had lain vacant for months before previous contractors were available to work on them.

"We get a lot of vandalism in these houses and people tend to squat or move into them," she said.

"We, as police or other agencies, don't know which houses are supposed to be empty and which aren't.

"So we are hoping the community can now contact police ... when they see people in houses with these signs and we can drive down our damage complaints and the huge amount the Department of Housing is having to spend on damage."

The initiative comes as there continues to be a long waiting list for public housing in the Pilbara.

While the new signs will be hung outside all government houses in the Pilbara and Gascoyne undergoing maintenance or upgrades by Pindan, including those for staff, there is a hope it will also help with public housing waiting times.

"It is not about the dollar value of the damage," the Department of Housing's Sharon Van Der Sluis said.

"Every time a property gets damaged, it adds time on to when I can get it back into circulation."

Supt McCabe said damage to vacant houses was also a significant drain on police resources because the crimes were often not easy to solve or prosecute.

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