It was inevitable that with the thousands of empty homes in and around Las Vegas that squatting would become an issue. The reality is that squatting has been a problem in Las Vegas for a long time but has been made worse by the last recession. The loss of jobs in the entertainment and gambling industry led to the loss of thousands of jobs, which eventually resulted in people not being able to pay their mortgages.

Almost everywhere in suburban Las Vegas empty homes have now been taken over by squatters. And this squatting is associated with other problems like junk, litter, and damage to properties. Since squatters are not legally able to have utilities, they often break into the system so that they get water and electricity. Most of the homes used by squatters also have moderate to severe infrastructure damage.

There is thus no doubt that Las Vegas is now paradise for squatters. Even though police are getting an increased volume of calls about suspected squatters, there is not much they can do.

Squatters are known to break into vacant homes or even rent rooms to other squatters. Some have changed the locks and yet others have drawn up bogus lease and rental papers. The rare squatter does keep the property in good shape but the overwhelming majority of squatters have trashed the homes. Another feature of squatting is the rampant drug use and many have resorted to selling weapons and drugs on the side- which has led to more crime.

In Las Vegas the majority of homes used by squatters have been abandoned by people who had financial problems. Las Vegas police say that there were nearly 4.458 squatter related service calls in 2015, which was an increase of nearly 24 percent compared to 2014. Overall squatting has become a problem in all income brackets: from low-income neighborhoods to the affluent communities.

Police note that squatters are everywhere because the number of empty homes continues to increase in the city. Today Las Vegas is at the eleventh place in the list of areas with empty homes.

A new law that has just come into effect may help navigate the fight against squatters. It will soon be a criminal offense to forcibly enter a vacant home to live there or to let someone else move in without the owner’s consent. Violators will face gross misdemeanor or felony charges. Since the new law went into effect on Oct. 1, law enforcement has made 24 arrests and has received 2,300 service calls. Whether this new law will completely get rid of squatting still remains to be seen because there are thousands of empty homes in a large area, something which law enforcement sees as a major obstacle in enforcing this new regulation.