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City Police Use Stink Bombs to Fight Vagrants 

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.”

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