The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is trying to get a handle on an alarming trend. They're now investigating over 90 cases of squatters moving into homes that don't belong to them. Investigators spoke to 13 Action News about how they are addressing the issue.
"Well, it's frustrating because obviously the police are out there and we're doing our job, but we're constantly chasing the bad guy from one residence to another," said Lt. Nick Farese.
Our 13 Action News crew caught up with him about the two homes squatters allegedly burned down on Tuesday.
"This isn't anything that a neighbor is going to be able to call 311 and 911 and a patrol officer in an area car is going to be able to show up and make an arrest,” said Farese.
He says the calls are coming in by the hundreds, neighbors sick and tired of squatters vandalizing their community. Last year alone, more than 4,000 calls were made to police. Farese says that number is only going up.
"We've seen increase over increase over the years. This year alone, we're seeing roughly about a 34% increase in calls for service valley wide."
This is the first year those complaints are turning into active investigations. They were once a civil offense until Farese led the charge to turn squatting into a crime.
"We were seeing that this really wasn't a civil matter,” he said. “This was different than a typical landlord dispute. These were actually criminals that were coming in and essentially stealing houses."
Last October, state lawmakers finally made squatting a gross misdemeanor. Repeat offenders could face a felony.
"With the new squatter law, as they get arrested and get convicted, after they reach so many convictions, it's a felony and there's a larger penalty that they're subject too with the criminal courts.
Of the hundreds who've called in to complain about squatters this year, 92 of them have filed actual police reports.
Police have no immediate plans of forming a squatter task force. They say the recent spike in violent crime is taking up most of the department's resources.