CHARLOTTE, NC - CMPD tells FOX 46 they receive up to five calls a week about possible squatter cases.
The department says they’re working to tackle this widespread issue all over Mecklenburg county. Our crews tagged along with police as they showed us one neighborhood that's dealing with the problem.
Officer Bill Haynes says the small community on Murry Hill Place has had a squatter case recently. People moved into a foreclosed home without lawfully owning the property or legally renting it from the owner.
“What we're finding out is that people in these abandoned houses are locating them, drilling out the locks and then posting it on Craigslist for a really good deal,” he said.
From bogus rental agreements to breaking into houses, Detective Andrew Phillips with the Financial Crimes Unit says in the last two years, they’ve seen a rise in the number of people moving in illegally to foreclosed homes.
According to police, some people claim they're unaware that they squatted. They say they were scammed by fake rental agreements.
"Provided all kinds of false documentation because of everything they're told about it is a complete lie. Then the owner can charge for breaking and entering and trespassing,” Phillips said.
Detective Phillips says sometimes squatters are scammed by fake craigslist ads. But in most cases, people squatting are intentionally trespassing.
A neighbor who lives on Murphy Hill Lane tell us he talked with one of the squatters. Police tell FOX 46 that squatter turned out to have a long list of arrests and a few months later died from gunshot wounds.
Gregory, who only gave us his first name, says he was concerned after finding out this was someone who lived a few houses from him.
"I felt like I wasn't able to protect my family. In all honesty I felt like we were against a situation that we had no control over,” Gregory recalled.
He notified police of suspicious activity on his block. CMPD says they want people to be aware of signs to look out for.
Detective Phillips says if you have questions or concerns, it's always best to try and find out who owns the property to see it's in foreclosure. If you still have concerns, you should then contact police. If someone is illegally squatting, they could face charges for trespassing and breaking and enterting.
CMPD says when they find out a house is foreclosed, they notify the entire neighborhood to make sure everyone keeps an eye on the home.