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12 Buildings To Come Down In Effort To Fight Crime

This Rhodes Avenue property was razed Thursday in an effort to clear crime-generating buildings from distressed neighborhoods. (CBS)

This Rhodes Avenue property was razed Thursday in an effort to clear crime-generating buildings from distressed neighborhoods. (CBS)

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Updated 7/12/2012 at 4 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Twelve residential buildings on the South and West Side were scheduled to be torn down Thursday, in an effort to eliminate hives for gang activity and violent crime.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office announced Thursday that the buildings were condemned as part of an effort to help Chicago Police by boarding up or demolishing vacant buildings that turn into gang houses.

“We are sending a clear message to gang members: you do not have a home in Chicago,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a news release. “These buildings are coming down because community members, the police, and the City are working together, calling out the criminals and removing their shelter from our neighborhoods.”

Police and the Department of Buildings have identified 200 vacant buildings that stand to be torn down based on both their structural problems and their locations in high-crime areas.

Whether some or all of them are torn down depends on their condition and whether criminals are using them. Those that the city believes can be reused will be boarded up instead.

The buildings slated for demolition Thursday:

• 7101 S. Rhodes Ave.;
• 7120 S. Rhodes Ave.;
• 5939 S. Laflin St.;
• 6752 S. Honore St.;
• 6820 S. Campbell Ave.;
• 1455 W. 73rd St.;
• 5649 S. Laflin St.;
• 6747 S. Laflin St.;
• 7052 S. Honore St.;
• 3342 W. Congress Pkwy.;
• 7026 S. Emerald Ave.;
• 5634 S. Winchester Ave.

All of the buildings in question have been the subject of complaints by neighbors who say they have been havens for drug sales, thefts and assaults, the mayor’s office said.

As the bricks came tumbling down at 7120 S. Rhodes, Rev. Charles Hollins had a ringside seat. He bid the building’s problems, including drug-dealing and prostitution, good riddance.

“If that’s going to help, tear it down,” Hollins told CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley.

Annette Jones-Williams had complained about the building for 10 years.

City records reflect a long list of trouble at another demolition site, 7101 S. Rhodes: four 9-1-1 calls in the past year, including one for shots fired; three 3-1-1 calls, about drug dealing and trespassing.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody Reports

In March, city inspectors found the building walls, roof, floors, ceiling and porch structurally unsafe. Last October, a 23-year-old man was shot and killed in the alley nearby, all of it happening across the street from Park Manor School.

Citywide, there are hundreds of troubled buildings to be addressed.

“It’s a start,” Chicago Police Lt. Cynthia Lance says.

The move is part of an initiative to crack down on gang violence by going after vacant buildings and businesses that attract crime. A list of 37 businesses – some of which could lose their licenses – include liquor stores, convenience stores, nightclubs, fast food restaurants, and even the popular Congress Theatre concert venue in Logan Square.

The allegations against the businesses range from selling alcohol or cigarettes to minors to selling spoiled food, violating sanitation regulations, or even scamming customers. But the overarching problem, Emanuel said, is that the businesses attract gangs and crime.

The new strategies have their detractors. Some aldermen, rank-and-file cops, and others have said part of the recent gang problem is the Police Department stopped using specialized units to target crime hot spots, and flood areas with extra cops based on intelligence about gang activity.

But McCarthy said earlier this week that this tactic – used heavily under his predecessor, Jody Weis – was nothing more than a quick fix.

“Saturating it is like … putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound. We’re not repairing anything by doing that,” he said.