One evening in January, Valerie Wicoff, 42, and her husband were heading out for dinner when they saw a group of strangers scurrying out of the long-vacant two-story brick building next to their house in a quiet East End neighborhood.
It was not the first time Wicoff or her neighbors spotted suspicious activity inside the city-owned property at 1417 Telephone Road that has been steadily deteriorating for years. The awning over the entrance has partially collapsed, and wood planks are scattered around the sizable lot. A rusty staircase leads to a broken window on the second floor, which, Wicoff said, squatters have used to enter the building. On the wire fence, a yellow piece of paper informs the city that it has violated its own nuisance law.