Abandoned or mysterious buildings can have an almost magnetic draw to young people looking for a thrill, curious nearby residents or homeless people seeking shelter, according to police.
Since the beginning of 2017, the Paducah Police Department has responded to nearly 30 calls for service regarding the Katterjohn building, many of those including reports of possible trespassing, theft or vandalism.
An open records request revealed 29 incidents during that timeframe, though some of those calls are follow-ups to other calls, and not unique reports. A report detailing every call over the past 15 years yielded nearly 70 pages worth of call logs, which The Sun did not review for this article.
Since 2017, only one call, during July that year, resulted in arrests, after a juvenile and two others were found inside with drugs and paint on their hands.
Officer Gretchen Morgan said the building could be more of a lure for risky activity than other abandoned buildings, considering the mystique surrounding it.
"It piques people's curiosity," Morgan said.
In addition to graffiti and broken windows, officers have also found evidence of fires having been started in various parts of the building.
"Sometimes our homeless community will go in there, especially when the weather's cold, to try to get out of the weather," Morgan said. But she said police have seen a decline in calls since windows were boarded over and doors reinforced.
She said police encourage owners of vacant buildings to practice "crime prevention through environmental design," including keeping the outside clean and free of graffiti, and making it difficult for people to get inside. "There are abandoned buildings throughout the city, but for the most part we try to make sure that they're secured and boarded up well and not easily accessed," Morgan said.
Kentucky law defines third-degree criminal trespassing (a violation) as unlawfully entering or remaining on premises, while doing so on premises where notice against trespassing has been posted in the form of a fence or other enclosure is second-degree trespassing, and a Class B misdemeanor.
The state also outlines both misdemeanor and felony levels of criminal mischief, which prohibit destruction or defacement of property.
In addition to the legal penalties, Morgan said entering a vacant building is also unwise due to the physical risk.
"In abandoned buildings, there are lots of hazards and so you can go in there and get hurt very easily," she said, noting the possibility of rotten floors or other loose materials.
"If we don't know you're in there, we can't get help to you," she said.
"Unless you own the property, or unless you have permission from that property owner, you really don't need to go inside."