If you're like most North Americans, you live near at least one foreclosed house that's sitting empty, but it may not be as empty as you think. According to USA Today, more and more abandoned houses are being turned into illegal party houses. For example, in Southern California, one young "party-planning" couple has given dozens of illegal parties. Every weekend, they'd ask a different realtor to give them a tour of a foreclosed house - usually in a rural area with no neighbors, and plenty of space for parking. One of them would leave a door or window ajar. Then they'd pass out flyers at local nightclubs for an "after party" and sneak back into the house, where they'd set up a DJ, charge admission, and open a cash bar. They'd leave behind thousands of dollars worth of damage, including broken windows, kicked-in drywall, torn-out light fixtures, spray-painted walls, and urine-soaked carpets. In Tempe, Arizona, there have been so many illegal parties, patrol officers carry a list of foreclosed homes, and conduct nightly security checks. Even when the police catch the party planners, most of the time the charges get dropped. Why? When banks foreclose on a home, they often sell the mortgage to an investment company, which may turn around and sell it again. If the police can't figure out who actually owns the house, there's nobody to press charges. So, how can you keep the empty properties in your neighborhood from becoming party houses? * First, form a neighborhood watch group, and get a different person to "adopt" each vacant home in your area. * Then, make sure each adoptive "house parent" checks on the property periodically to make the sure doors and windows are closed securely, and picks up any litter or junk mail. * If you live next door to an abandoned house, you might consider dragging over the hose to water the lawn, because party planners often are tipped off to foreclosures by dead lawns. * Finally, if you see someone inside or around a vacant property, call 911. Don't confront anyone who's trespassing. Let the police take care of it.