Squatters Taking Over Sparks Neighborhood

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SPARKS, NV - Police in Sparks have still not announced if they'll charge a man who shot two people last week who were squatting in his abandoned Sparks home. The case calls attention to the problem Sparks is having with squatters. Neighbors report them taking over several homes on the quiet street, but it wasn't always this way.

When Bill Nord moved to H Street 50 years ago, houses in the neighborhood looked a lot different.

"They were filled. Families were in them, small families. Its convenient to the schools, the churches, the libraries. All of those things that are really important to build a community neighborhood," said Nord.

That changed when the recession hit. The once-busy houses were abandoned, foreclosed or turned into rentals.

"They had one that had squatters in it. Our neighbors next door had squatters in it. It's not an uncommon thing for some of the people looking for a place to stay," said Nord.

It's become a real problem in this area of Sparks. When two squatters were shot last week, neighbors were upset with the police department.

In reality, there is not much the police can legally do to deal with squatters.

"If there is not forcible entry into a home... Fundamentally, there is nothing we can do about it," said Adam Mayberry with the City of Sparks.

A law meant to protect homeowners is helping squatters. The Fourth Amendment prevents unlawful search and seizure, so police can't deal with squatters unless the homeowner, not a neighbor, calls them in.

"It's a challenge, it really is. It's a challenge to fix," said Mayberry.

Neighbors on H St. say the squatting activity has quieted down since the shooting. But they say they wish it did not have to come to that to fix the problem.

Squatting is a big problem in homes that have been foreclosed on. In that case, the bank owns the home. Since the bank is still protected by the Fourth Amendment, police still cannot enter the home without permission.