Thousands of people of are living illegally in homes all over Las Vegas. Squatting is a nightmare for homeowners and wreaks havoc in our neighborhoods.
When squatters take over the house next door, crime often follows. Most of us expect that police can remove the unwanted guests but it's not so simple. Using a new law and teaming up with the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors, police hope to get squatters out of our neighborhoods.
"She goes to jail for 6 months and she has one year of supervised probation," said Lt. Nick Farese with Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department as he addresses a large group of realtors on Monday. "That's a win for us on a gross misdemeanor for somebody that isn't a habitual criminal."
Farese wants realtors to know about the new anti-squatting law. As part of that, "unlawful occupancy" and "house breaking" now carry criminal charges.
LVMPD says realtors need to know how to use the law. Real estate agents are often the first line of defense as they know which houses are vacant, foreclosed or soon to be foreclosed.
Thanks in part to our new Squatter Spotters reports, the problem is getting the spotlight it urgently needs. And LVMPD is getting more calls than ever before.
In 2013 they had 2,284 squatter calls. That jumped 26.5 percent in 2014 with 3,110. And it jumped again, by 43.3 percent last year to 4,458 calls.
So far this year, LVMPD is on track for another 30 percent increase. And though the numbers are disheartening, police says the new law finally gives them the authority they need.
"A gross misdeameanor for a first offense, that gives a little bit more teeth to try to thwart this," says Farese. "And the people who do chose to offend, the punishment is a little bit more severe. And it's compounding if they continue to choose that behavior."
LVMPD has arrested nearly 30 people since the anti-squatter laws passed last October.
But they need everyone's help to fight the growing squatting problem. If you see something, say something. And let us know about it too, when you spot squatters, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org