It sounds like a headline from the Onion: “City Buys Stink Bombs to Keep Vagrants Out of Vacant Homes.” But it's no joke.
Richmond's interdepartmental code enforcement unit has started using a foul-smelling substance called Skunk Shot to keep people out of abandoned buildings.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Lt. Shaun Mathers — whose older brother, Jerry, played Beaver Cleaver on the “Leave It to Beaver” — helped pioneer the stink bombs to repel stray dogs and cats, and for a time was the only dealer authorized by New Zealand-based Skunk Shot to sell it in the states.
Recently, however, it's become a crime-fighting weapon.
“It smells exactly like a skunk,” Mathers says. The Los Angeles department continues to use it, and Mathers estimates about two-dozen other police departments nationwide deploy Skunk Shot.
It's the first time Jocelyn Bogen, director with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, has heard of such a tactic, but says it makes good fiscal sense for cities facing down a foreclosure epidemic that leaves more vacant buildings in its wake.
“A lot of cities are trying innovative ways to deal with this problem,” Bogen says. “This is a cost-effective way to combat the problems that are associated with the mortgage crisis.”