CHICAGO (CBS) — The city of Chicago was celebrating a milestone Wednesday, in a program that started last July to tear down abandoned buildings.
WBBM’s Mike Krauser reports 300 vacant buildings have been torn down in the past seven months, the latest a burned-out and boarded-up house near 103rd Street and Lowe Avenue in the Roseland neighborhood.
Abandoned buildings serve as havens for drug and gang activity.
“The most troublesome criminal activity we have to contend with stems from gangs, and vacant buildings are an element that facilitates gang problems,” Chicago Police First Deputy Supt. Al Wysinger said. “They use these abandoned structures for stash houses for guns, and for drugs. They also use them for narcotics sales, and as distribution points.”
Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) said, “this will be just a step in the right direction in order to bring our communities back to what they used to be in yesteryear.”
Wysinger said there have been modest gains in terms of crime reduction. He said there have been fewer incident calls and fewer arrests in areas where vacant buildings have been torn down.
“While these incidents are modest gains, they do demonstrate what the people who live in these communities report every day: vacant and hazardous buildings breed crime, and demolishing them will help us reduce crime,” Wysinger said.
Some of the remaining lots have been used by neighborhood groups for playlots and community gardens.
“There were lots that were demolished that were purchased by various block clubs and community organizations; that were actually turned into gardens for the community and for the block, which actually helped the citizens and the officers hold onto those vacant lots, and turn them into something positive instead of something negative,” Wysinger said.
Marlene Hopkins, a managing deputy commissioner at the Department of Buildings, said the average demolition job costs $17,000 to $20,000 for the city.
Officials estimated there are 18,000 abandoned buildings in Chicago.