March 25, 2016

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Program to Fast-Track Demolition of Vacant Buildings in High-Crime Police Districts in Full Force

Mimi Simon | Department of Buildings    312.744.7384 | mimi.simon@cityofchicago.org

Frank Giancamilli | Chicago Police Department    312.745.6110 | frank.giancamilli@chicagopolice.org

As part of Chicago’s ongoing commitment to protect our communities from criminal activity, the fast-track demolition of vacant buildings in high-crime areas is moving full-speed ahead. Today, the Chicago Police Department, the Department of Buildings and 16th Ward community members announced the demolition of 6758 S. Wolcott Avenue, the 45th building since the program was announced last month. This important targeted initiative stops criminals from using these buildings as centers for illegal activity and eliminates unsafe and deteriorating buildings from our city neighborhoods. 

“Removing these vacant buildings is another commonsense step we can take to make our communities safer and stronger,” said Mayor Emanuel.  “These demolitions will help prevent gangs from using vacant buildings for illegal activity while also removing blight that has a detrimental impact on the entire neighborhood. It is another example of our commitment to using every available tool to bring safety to every neighborhood in the City of Chicago.”

The CPD and the Department of Buildings diligently work together each day, with input from elected officials and community members, to identify, demolish and secure vacant buildings that serve as hubs for violence and gang activity. In 2016, the City completed 58 demolitions in total, and boarded up and secured 677 buildings. 

Buildings torn down through this program meet a number of factors that warrant demolition: they are located on a block with documented criminal activity; the buildings’ owner is absent or not taking responsibility; and the structures are unsound and are marked by years of deterioration beyond repair. The block of 6700 S. Wolcott was the site of two dozen crime incidents and 20 arrests in the last year alone.

“I and the residents of the 6700 block of South Wolcott welcome the demolition of this property as it has been vacant and an eyesore for about 15 years,” said 16th Ward Alderman Toni Foulkes. “Now we can look for a better use for this and other vacant lots in our community. I would like to thank Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Department of Buildings for this initiative to remove the blight of abandoned buildings in our communities.”

This latest move to expedite the demolition of buildings complements ongoing efforts by the city to disrupt the cycle of violence in a number of neighborhoods. Over the past few months, under the new Summary Closure Ordinance, the CPD has closed businesses that were the sight of shootings and murders in order to expedite safety planning and other measures to make conditions safer. Furthermore, the Police Department has also decentralized gang and enforcement police units so that they are better able to make enforcement decisions; partnered with Cook County Sheriff’s Department to better coordinate its response to gang violence; and conducted a series of targeted raids in areas that are problematic, resulting in the seizure of guns, cash, and drugs.

The city has also implemented its Large Lot initiative, which aims to help property owners, block clubs and non-profit groups in select neighborhoods purchase City-owned land for $1 per parcel. Many owners buy lots in order to stabilize neighborhoods, control public access to properties and prevent loitering. More than 280 lots were made available for purchase in Fall 2015 in Roseland.

"We're encouraged by the progress of our partnership that is being made to demolish these sites that have served as hubs of illegal activity for far too long," said CPD Chief of Patrol Eddie Johnson. "As each structure comes down we are making Chicago's neighborhoods that much safer."

The city of Chicago requires that an owner of a vacant building register the building with the city once it is vacant for more than 30 days. Each owner of a vacant building is also required to secure, insure and maintain that building as required by ordinance. Registration must be renewed every six months. Failure to comply with these requirements may result in significant penalties. Residents are encouraged to call 311 to report a vacant and troubled building and a building inspector will be sent out to investigate the concerns.

“The Department of Buildings pledges its full commitment to this important program to keep communities safe,” said Judy Frydland, Commissioner for the Department of Buildings. “This is a top priority for our department and we will continue to expedite the demolition of these dangerous and hazardous buildings and remove from our neighborhoods as quickly as possible.”

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