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L.A. to Ask FEMA to Extend Patrols of 'Ghost Towns'


Hoping to protect vacant, quake-damaged buildings until most repairs are completed, Los Angeles housing officials said Tuesday they will ask the federal government to continue paying for private patrols of "ghost towns" through January.

Housing officials said they will request next week that the Federal Emergency Management Agency pay to extend a 120-day contract for private security guards for an additional 90 days. The extension would cost $480,000.

The federally funded patrols were launched in July to keep vagrants, vandals and looters from entering the empty, crumbling buildings and further damaging the properties. The original $600,000 security contract was scheduled to expire Oct. 31.

But Sam Luna, director of the city's neighborhood recovery program, said the guards are needed for another 90 days to give building owners more time to rebuild. "The reports we get from residents, property owners and property managers is that they are doing a good job," Luna said.

He added that he expects a positive response from FEMA. "We don't see a problem being approved," he said.

The guards are only part of a $2.8-million federally funded effort by the city to seal the buildings from trespassers. City crews have also boarded up windows and erected fences around most vacant ghost town buildings.

The security guards patrol 15 ghost towns, mostly in the San Fernando Valley. Each quake-damaged neighborhood has been assigned at least two guards and one patrol car to protect the buildings around the clock.

Because of additional crime problems at a ghost town in North Hills, the city increased the security there by assigning 10 unarmed guards and one patrol car with two armed guards. In addition, a mounted unit of the Los Angeles Police Department will be deployed in the area whenever it is available, Luna said.

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