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Protesters: Chase Should Secure Vacant Buildings Before School Starts

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Community activists want vacant buildings like this one, which are owned by banks after foreclosures, to be boarded up, cleaned up and secured before the first day of classes for the Chicago Public Schools. (Credit: CBS)

Community activists want vacant buildings like this one, which are owned by banks after foreclosures, to be boarded up, cleaned up and secured before the first day of classes for the Chicago Public Schools. (Credit: CBS)

Derrick Blakley Derrick Blakley
Derrick Blakley is a general assignment reporter for CBS 2...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Big banks in Chicago are being urged to be more careful with vacant buildings they take back in foreclosure suits.

As Chicago Public Schools get ready to open next week, a local group called Action Now wants to make sure vacant homes near schools are cleaned up and safe.

As CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, the group staged a protest and rally at Chase Bank’s downtown headquarters on Tuesday, demanding that the bank board up and secure a vacant building at 4338 W. Monroe St.

At about 3 p.m., a board-up crew showed up to do just that.

Protesters said that the Monroe Street building and 19 others like it that Chase owns – and that are located near schools – are havens for vandalism, drugs and prostitution.

At 4338 W. Monroe St., when the foreclosed residents moved out in April, the vandals attacked.

A basement window was broken out, giving easy access. The gangway was filled with garbage, the back yard was filled with weeds and the rear door had been kicked in.

Kiwand Brown and his children live two doors away.

“You don’t know who in there, it could be a pedophile in there. Anything could be going on inside the buildings,” Brown said.

Protesters went to Chase Bank’s downtown headquarters Tuesday morning demanding they secure and clean up the Monroe Street building and 19 others near schools that the bank foreclosed on, before classes start on Sept. 6.

Chase told the protesters that they check the foreclosed buildings every 30 days.

Jerry McDowell, with Action Now, said that’s not good enough.

“We need them to secure them and check them out more frequently. … 24/7,” she said.

A new city ordinance that goes into effect on Sept. 10 will make banks legally responsible for security and upkeep of foreclosed buildings, for the first time.

In a statement, Chase said “We share the concerns of our neighbors and elected officials about vacant homes. That is why we have teams that inspect and maintain properties as soon as we know they are vacant.”

If that’s true, Brown said it’s not enough.

“They have the money. I think they should be held accountable for the buildings,” he said.

Late Tuesday afternoon, CBS 2 received a call from a man who said that he owns the building at 4338 W. Monroe St., although Chase holds the mortgage. He said it’s not in foreclosure, but is going through a loan modification process.

Chase said it holds “several hundred” foreclosed buildings in Chicago, but wouldn’t say exactly how many.

The new law allows the city to haul the banks into court to force them to fix up the properties.

The protesters had another idea: if Chase can’t keep a good watch on the buildings, the bank should hire people from the neighborhood to watch them and report when they’re vandalized or in disrepair.

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