The foreclosure crisis has forced suburban law enforcement agencies to tackle a new challenge: policing empty houses, says the Washington Post. As evictions mount and many houses remain unsold for months, even years, vacant properties have become havens for squatters, vandals, thieves, partying teenagers, and worse. Fairfax County, Va., police found blood inside a vacant house and traced it to an injured sexual assault suspect who had been hiding there before he stole a car and fled. He was eventually caught.
A woman, 27, was arrested by Loudoun County, Va., sheriff’s deputies after she, her husband and two children moved into a foreclosed house and allegedly tried to use forged documents to convince officers that she was the new owner. In some localities, officers are targeting vacant houses on regular patrols, using maps of foreclosed properties as guides, while working with community watch groups to identify trouble spots. Empty driveways, overgrown lawns, realty signs, lockboxes and “No Trespassing” notices in windows are all signals to would-be violators. The bad guys, the criminals, that’s how they think,” Fairfax County Police Lt. Daniel Janickey said.