Evictions soar in Las Vegas

Two deputies from the Las Vegas township constable's office are enforcing a judge's order on a foreclosed home.
CBS News

The financial troubles the country is going through began when the housing bubble burst and the market has yet to recover. A report out today says nearly 213,000 homeowners got foreclosure notices in July.

Nevada is ground zero for the crisis. CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker shows what happens when families there can no longer pay the mortgage or rent.

It's a scene repeated again and again, day after day across Las Vegas: Two deputies from the Las Vegas township constable's office enforcing a judge's order on a foreclosed home.

Sgt. Patrick Geary is in the process of evicting a family from his residence. "You have to get a change of clothes, stuff like that, and take off in about 15 minutes," he told the man of the house.

"Well, I have my son upstairs right now. He's sleeping."

"Okay, well, you need to wake him up."

The young couple and their son have only the time it takes a locksmith to change the locks -- maybe 10 or 15 minutes -- to grab what they can. They lost the house after falling behind on their payments. Now they'll have to make arrangements with the new owner -- a bank -- to come back later for the rest of their belongings.

Geary served 21 years with the Las Vegas police department. He's been doing evictions for five.

"You gotta have really thick skin to be able to do it," he said.

He carried out 15 the day CBS News met him.

"It's hard," he explained. "It's not for the faint of heart. You could take a lot of this stuff personal and it would eat you up."

Las Vegas has with the highest foreclosure rate in the country and one of the highest unemployment rates, 13.8 percent. The constable's office, the largest in Clark County, carried out more than 34,000 evictions last year. The vast majority are tenants behind in their rent.

"Is it mostly because people have lost jobs, or is it people who are trying to scam the landlord?" Whitaker asked Deputy Scott McWilliams.

"For apartments usually, I think it deals a lot with employment issues."

CBS News drove with McWilliams from apartment to apartment. The 107-degree heat didn't slow his pace.

"Today we'll probably end up doing probably about 25 to 30," he said.

Most tenants are gone when McWilliams arrives to evict them and change the locks. Others seemed surprised, though all have gotten multiple notices their evictions were imminent.

In one instance McWilliams walks into a residence. "Any dogs?" he asked a man inside.


"Any weapons?"


"Okay, hurry up, because as soon as he's done," said McWilliams, referring to another person in the residence, " it's time to go."

Whitaker asked the deputy if he sees any of this turning around. "Unfortunately no," said McWilliams. "It's been a steady flow. It's almost like trying to hold back the tide with a teaspoon. I don't see an end in sight.

The constables of Las Vegas township are on track to carry out 40,000 evictions this year, 6,000 more than last.