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SQUATTER SPOTTERS: House becomes squatter haven

Posted at 10:45 PM, Jul 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-22 08:22:53-04

Hazardous. Dangerous. Trashed. 

That's how North Las Vegas authorities describe a house on Hemphill Street.  

Code Enforcement officers check windows and doors, looking for the telltale signs of squatters.

"It's a little frightening at first because you're not expecting anyone to be there because no one's supposed to be there," says Officer Josh Christensen.

The malt liquor can and chicken bone in the backyard show someone's been there recently, which is par for the course.

"This basically was a home that went into foreclosure," said North Las Vegas Lead Code Enforcement Officer Tom Martens, adding that they've had to secure or take control of the property ten different times.

You can see the evidence all around of the city's constant battle to secure the property, including holes in the door frame where they've had to nail it shut.  

The city has kicked out four sets of squatters, and that's not counting those who left before they could be forced out.

"It's scary! It's terrifying!" said Deborah Lewis, a neighbor who lives near the home. "We've had to live here with our blinds pulled, our alarm system on, a jimmy bar on the door, and that's no way to live!"

Living right next door, Deborah and her family have seen scores of squatters come and go.

"We have a lot of kids in this neighborhood, and when they know there are squatters in there, the kids are not out to play," she said.

They've had police out countless times, even the canine unit as squatters bring continued crime to this quiet neighborhood.

"Huge holes in the walls. Feces on the walls. There's been meth-making in there. There's been counterfeiting being done in there. All kinds of drugs," Deborah says.

But when squatters started stealing her water, it was time to fight back.

"They'd walk right across with gallon jugs and fill up with the hose. So when I realized that was happening, I called ten households around. Everybody shut off all their water in the front yards."

They hoped it would help drive the squatters away.

"It's ridiculous, and then we all have to pay for it."

The house has been going through the foreclosure process for more than four years, leaving it in legal limbo after the owners moved out, but before the bank officially takes possession.

Tom Martins said the city has boarded up the home multiple times at taxpayer expense.

They put the cost into a property lien, so in theory, the city should get its money back when the home is finally sold. 

As for Deborah, she's just waiting for the next time she has to say, "Here we go again."