SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Springfield community members expressed concerns about squatters at a recent city council meeting.
The Springfield Police Department will now be giving squatters harsher punishments.
In the past squatters would be given a citation but now they could potentially be arrested.
“Starting on the 12th, officers will have the discretion to arrest these squatters, and take them to jail,” said Captain Culley Wilson.
Giving out a harsher punishment may discourage squatters from repeating offenses.
“Right now, if someone who’s doing this, they know that they’re going to get a ticket, they’re going to be released,” said Wilson. ” We have seen sometimes where they will be released, go to another vacant house, and do the same thing. So we want to get the point across that this is not acceptable in Springfield.”
A squatter is a person who occupies an uninhabited building or unused land.
This behavior can cause problems for property owners and neighbors.
If a squatter gets arrested and goes to jail they will see the judge the next morning.
However, Wilson says the new rule doesn’t target a specific population.
“Homeless people do this, but it’s not only homeless people,” said Wilson. “There are other criminal elements that, also other people who are not homeless would go to vacant houses, set up shop for various reasons.”