Last Monday the mayor announced that coordinated efforts of the police and building departments would identify vacant buildings believed to be havens for crime and secure them or tear them down. Friday, demolition began.
A small group of residents and community supporters watched as the house at 6747 S. Laflin in the Englewood community was finally torn down. The home had been vacant “for years” according to Early Porter who had lived next door to the home since 1991. He said the last few years he has had to call the police countless times because he had no idea who the people were going in and out of the vacant structure. Porter believes that the traffic in an out of the dilapidated dwelling led to his own house being burglarized last winter.
The home represented the kinds of properties the city will target.
“With these types of properties there are calls for service for assaults that happen in properties like these, there’s drug activity that occurs in properties like this, so no longer will this property be used. It will also send a message to property owners … that the mayor and the city are saying to them ‘you have to have the same level of care and attention for a building that you own as you would have for a building where you live,” First Deputy Chief of Staff Felicia Davis told the Chicago Citizen.
The city’s target list includes properties that are structurally unsafe and/or serve as criminals’ safe houses, Davis said.
There are no fewer than a dozen vacant and boarded up properties in a half-mile radius of the South Laflin site. In fact, an empty multi-family, multi-story brick building that is at least twice the size of the house that was torn down July 9 anchors South Laflin at 68th Street. But nearby residents say that razing the house at 6747 was a “good first start.”
“This is one we don’t have to worry about again,” said Melba Miles, president of the 6800 S. Laflin block club which also calls itself New Birth. “If (owners) aren’t going to do nothing about (the properties) it shouldn’t be a hazard to our community, devalue our community and bring our property value down. Either do something about it or tear them down.”
For the community, tearing down troublesome properties seemed like a no-brainer in the fight against crime. Miles and others on the block frequently bore witness to the unsavory and illegal happenings at the now-demolished home and others like it. She said for at least a decade concerned citizens would call police and the city. For them Friday’s tear-down was a long time in coming but an example of residents persevering.
“You just call (3-1-1) two, three, four times a day – whatever it takes. You don’t stop,” said Deborah Payne, head of the Southwest Federation of Block Clubs. She joined Miles in watching the city tear down what they called a “crack house.”
Ten years is “a very long time” to wait for action, Payne said. “But if you live in the community you persevere and try to make the difference so it doesn’t make a difference how long.”
Davis said the demolition of this property and the other 199 on the city’s list would be a “boon” for the community. She said the city is already hearing positive feedback from communities where demolitions took place Friday.
The mayor said Monday that the city would put up $4 million for this project. Davis said Friday the city would try to recoup some of its money — including demolition and legal costs — from property owners.
By Rhonda Gillespie