A man was found living in an underground utility vault in downtown Los Angeles, underscoring the dire homelessness crisis in the city.
The vault is located near the Japanese American National Museum in the Little Tokyo district.
Museum officials are now taking action against the homeless man after the shocking discovery.
Typically, underground utility vaults are secured for safety, yet as L.A.’s homelessness crisis worsens, unhoused individuals are becoming desperate, with some even taking advantage of subterranean spaces.
Surveillance video captures a homeless man lifting the lid to an underground utility vault before stuffing a backpack inside.
Security guards first noticed the homeless man on Monday night along Alameda Street which is right next to the museum building, said Doug Van Kirk, CFO of the Japanese American National Museum.
“The security guards noticed the incident, called our director of security who came down,” Van Kirk said.
A short time later, security guards watched as the man opened the lid to yet another vault before climbing inside. That’s when they called the police.
The vaults typically contain water and natural gas valves or electrical lines. In the museum’s case, the L.A. Department of Water and Power said it housed a water meter. Inside the vault, empty food containers and other debris were spotted.
There is no access to the museum from inside the vaults. but Van Kirk said their close proximity to the building and the presence of people camping inside presents a serious fire concern.
“There are pipes leading in from utilities into our facility here at JANM,” Van Kirk said.
When officers arrived, they located the homeless man inside one of the vaults. After ordering him to come up, they began to search him.
That’s when the man became combative and hit one of the officers, according to LAPD. He was later arrested for trespassing and battery on a police officer.
“The individual was taken away in custody,” Van Kirk said. “They searched the backpack and our understanding is they found a firearm, or a replica of a firearm.”
According to LADWP, the vaults are not permanently sealed because workers need to access them for various reasons including maintenance. Officials later confirmed the two vaults accessed by the homeless man were locked and re-secured on Friday.