A 25-year-old woman was arrested Sunday on suspicion of felony child abuse after Los Angeles police found her three young children alone in their bug-infested, garbage-strewn North Hills apartment.
A neighbor called police about 2 a.m. to report that the children, ages 2, 4, and 5, had been left unattended at their Parthenia Street apartment, said Officer Curtis Faulkner, an LAPD spokesman.
Concerned about the conditions in which the children were living, officers called investigators from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.
"It was filthy," Faulkner said. "It was in enough shambles that it was determined that it was a child endangerment situation."
The children, who were not hurt, were taken into custody by the Family Services Department, Faulkner said.
Police declined to identify the mother, who was arrested when she returned home Sunday morning. Police could not say how long the children had been left alone.
Ignacio Cardenas, manager of the apartment building in the 15100 block of Parthenia Street, said he had visited the woman several times to ask for rent that was past due, but she never allowed him into the apartment.
"I didn't know anything about this," he said Sunday afternoon.
Inside the apartment, toys lay among piles of garbage, half-eaten food and soiled underwear. Bugs crawled about in the kitchen.
Neighbors said the woman did not work and seldom left her apartment during the day, only venturing out at night when she would sometimes sit in front of the complex with her children. She regularly sent the children out to beg, neighbors said.
"The little girl used to come around saying, 'My mommy told me to ask for $3,' or, 'My mommy told me to ask for $5,' " said one neighbor, who declined to give her name. "I'd usually give her a box of cereal, maybe a half a dozen tortillas."
The neighbor said the children--girls, 2 and 5, and a boy, 4--were often dressed in dirty clothes and consistently seemed to be suffering from colds.
"I felt bad for those children," the woman said.