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Wed June 17, 2009
JoCo Police Consider Eviction Distasteful Work
By Dan Verbeck
Johnson County, KS – In an office the public rarely sees at Johnson County Courthouse the papers are neatly packaged and waiting for a deputy's hands.
More of them than anybody would've imagined a few years ago.
These are eviction papers, ordered by a judge, usually after foreclosures. On this day Deputy Sheriffs Steve Neumer and Tracy Ocamb don't have to look at data sheets to know how many there are.
There were 161 evictions in April, down from 271 in February. The total for 2009 is more than 1,000.
Last year deputies went to homes and businesses 3,450 times to give the order: Move out.
It's distasteful work for men and women who signed on with the sheriff to enforce the law, to do the work of the courts.
Neumer and Ocamb drive in patrol cars to an Overland Park address. This time it's failing to make the rent at apartments.
"People who, who are -- their homes are being foreclosed on due to, due to a job loss or something like that," Neumer says. "You feel for em', but you still have a job to do. There's still a court order that you have to carry out."
The little things can be oppressive.
Food left in unplugged refrigerators, evidence of pets taken away if occupants have already left.
"Even we like to spray ourselves down before we go into a lot of these places," Neumer says. "It's not uncommon even after spraying ourselves down to come out with a lot of fleas."
It's psychologically wearing on everybody, especially during summertime when children are home from school.
"I've yet to figure out a good way to tell a child that, you know, unfortunately you're gonna', you know, you and our family are being evicted from your home," Neumer says. "You're gonna have to find someplace else to live."
Eviction is a second visit to an address.
Deputy Tracy Ocamb always prepares herself to find real people at home when she makes what officers call "the visit."
"When you know that there could be a good chance you're coming back to do the eviction and that's when you see the pets are there and the kids toys are out front and you know that you may be back to 'set them out.'
The process can be tough on property owners as well.
Robert Marple is one of the property owners and managers who hate the business losses and seeing people in distress.
"I hate doing evictions," Marple says. "I get so many calls every day about foreclosures, people saying, well, we've been foreclosed on, can I rent from you?'"
The deputies who enforce evictions are too young to remember tee shirts printed in the 1970's, supposed to be implausible and humorous.
Lettering that reads: "I'm poor and live in Johnson County."
Through April this year, Johnson County has had 934 foreclosures.