June 21, 2024

Broward investigators warn about rise in property crime complaints – NBC 6 South Florida

The dangers posed by squatting and property theft in South Florida were highlighted over a week ago when two Miami-Dade Police officers were shot while investigating a complaint of a suspected squatter inside a home.

Police told NBC6 those officers are home recovering, but authorities say these cases are challenging to investigate and they are seeing them more than ever before.

The latest incident involved a homeowner who called police to report someone living illegally in his property on Southwest 162nd Avenue near 216th Street. Police say the suspected squatter confronted responding officers with a shotgun, shooting two of them before he was killed in the shootout.

Officials confirmed the identity of the suspected squatter who was killed by Miami-Dade Police following a shootout that also injured two officers this week. NBC6’s Niko Clemmons reports

Records from Miami-Dade Police show there have been 17 calls involving squatters over the past three years in that area alone, including this incident.

“Anything they do is dangerous for our law enforcement people. They could just be going to something they consider so simple and it turns into a disaster,” said Ron Cacciatore, Director of Broward County’s Crimes Against Property Unit. He says complaints of squatters and property theft through fraud are at levels he’s never seen. 

“It’s out of control. It’s the only way I can describe it,” he said. “Every day we’re getting four or five people calling.”

In some of those cases, Cacciatore says the alleged squatters have put both law enforcement and the public in danger.

“It was very, very upsetting,” said one Fort Lauderdale homeowner who asked not to be identified. He says he had a run-in with a suspected squatter back in 2022.

“He was walking around the neighborhood. He was caught on video,” Cacciatore said, referring to the case.

Police say surveillance video shows the man — moments before he got inside his home in the middle of the night. 

“I was asleep. My wife screamed, ‘There’s someone in here,’ and several screams to the point where she lost her voice for three days,” the homeowner said.

He credits his dog, a German shepherd named Mojo, for barking and alerting his wife to what was happening. 

The man, who police later identified as Kevin Bosley, took off and was eventually arrested on burglary charges. He’s pleaded not guilty. According to authorities, he had been part of a group squatting inside a neighbor’s home who had passed away.

And it took another six to nine months even after we knew he was living in that squatting home to get the squatters out of this house,” according to the homeowner.

In September, NBC6 told you about another case in which a man facing charges in connection with property theft, barricaded himself inside a Lauderhill home — prompting an hours-long SWAT standoff before officers took him into custody. 

But the thing that concerns me about the squatters,” Cacciatore said. “They broke in a house, they stole a house, or they don’t belong there. They know from the get-go that law enforcement is coming up to the house and they may not have anything to lose.”

Cacciatore says exact numbers of squatting calls are not something the office tracks — but property theft, especially through deed fraud, is an issue the Broward County Property Appraiser Marty Kiar has made a top priority. His team of investigators is made up of BSO partners and retired law enforcement to look into these complaints. 

South Florida’s real estate is exceptionally expensive,” Kiar told NBC6. “When somebody is stealing one home, maybe stealing a $500,000 home, maybe $1 million home, a $300,000 home, they’re stealing a lot. And what people do when they do this, they usually just don’t steal one home.”

The crimes are complex – in many cases, suspects are able to transfer ownership of the property by filing fraudulent paperwork.

Cacciatore says, when it comes to squatters, “They know, listen, I don’t own this house. I stole it. And they got to decide what they want to do.”

Bosley is facing two counts of burglary in connection to the homeowner’s property and his neighbor’s. His attorney told us she couldn’t comment on the allegations against his client because the case is pending. 

The Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office urges homeowners to sign up for their free Owner Alert program, which protects a property from scams or fraud by notifying the homeowner if a document is received by the BCPA transferring ownership of the property.

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