‘I keep my kids inside’: Fife apartment complex taken over by squatters

FIFE, Wash. — Squatters and crime are taking over a Fife apartment complex. Families and the people handling the property are both beyond frustrated.

The problems are at the Sherwood Park Apartments. Police say the situation also attracted a ton of criminal activity. Now officers regularly patrol the area because of all the problems.

Most of the units at the complex are covered in plywood.

“It’s bad,” said Angel, a resident at the apartments. “The cops are here 24/7. Every day, every night. I keep my kids inside. I don’t let them out.”

She didn’t want to share her last name and was too scared to show her face on camera.

Angel said she’s lived at the Sherwood Park Apartments for eight years. But two years ago, everything went downhill.

“Shootings everywhere, crackheads bringing in stolen cars,” Angel said.

Mark Vohr is a representative for the trust company handling the property. He said the property’s owner died a couple of years ago, leaving the property in a trust.

He said one day, the stack of paperwork landed in his lap. It came with about 1/3 of the units vacant, plus other problems.

“Already the cash flow was not able to cover the loan service, the maintenance,” Vohr said.

The property manager quit, and the squatters moved in. Now there’s garbage everywhere – units are boarded up – one is even clearly burned with debris outside.

Vohr, who works closely with the property, said every fix they make gets destroyed again.

“Unfortunately with the sad state of our homeless population here we ended up having a lot of people breaking into the units,” Vohr said.

Fife police said the complex even became a crime hot spot – confirming that it attracted stolen cars, shots fired, and assaults.

So Vohr said the trust company has been doing everything possible to improve the situation and keep the area crime-free. They even hired off-duty officers and deputies to work security.

“We spent close to $400,000 on that kind of service,” Vohr said. “We appreciate the work, but that’s what we’ve had to focus on - is mitigating crime.”

The Fife police chief said over the phone that the worst of it was last fall, the violent crime has improved.

However, the squatters are clearly still there.

Vohr said a couple of months ago – they sent out letters that said to pay up or be evicted. Angel’s letter said she owed $15,000 in back rent.

“I was angry, I was so angry,” Angel said. “I lived in that apartment for a year with the water leaking down… and they still wanted me to pay rent. I’m crying inside. I’ve been really trying to move, save to move.”

Vohr said at this point, they’ve given up on the back rent.

“Just pay going forward,” he said. “Unfortunately we’re not getting any rent.”

Now Vohr said they are working to sell the property at no profit to someone who can fix up and manage the Sherwood Park Apartments.

“All these things come together and it just – it keeps you up at night,” Vohr said “I worry about this every day and trying to find a solution to take care of our community.”

He said he’s hopeful the situation will be improving soon because there are several interested buyers.