Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

12 Buildings Razed in Anti-Gang Fight

New initiative will board up or demolish 200 vacant buildings that are hubs of gang activity

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As the mayor and Department of Buildings promised, the first of problem, vacant buildings came down Thursday. Natalie Martinez reports.

A building on South Rhodes Avenue that suffered from ripped up walls and uneven floors inside, and evidence of people having lived in squalor underneath, was one of 12 torn down by the City of Chicago Thursday in an attempt to curb gang activity and other crime.

"It looks like this is boarded up, but you go right in the back and you can see it's not boarded up," said Block President Annette Jones-Williams. "They can get into this building every kind of way they want to."

Access to those buildings creates a prime breeding ground for crime, say neighborhood leaders.

"So naturally what happens is it becomes a haven, a haven for the gangs, for the drugs, for the homeless, for the prostitution," said Darlene Tribue, neighborhood leader. "And at a certain point, it overwhelms the neighborhood."

Eliminating those havens is the goal of an initiative announced earlier this week by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy as part of their anti-gang strategy.

"Drugs and gangs are an eyesore to the community, and the only ones that are being affected by it are the elderly and the children," said resident Lyndon Jackson.

Buildings at, at 7101 S. Rhodes Avenue and 6747 S. Laflin Street, are among the first of the 200 properties to be taken care of.

"These vacant buildings are where gang bangers are hanging out, and drug dealers are hanging out, and they’re operating in those buildings,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday.

The initial strategy targets several West and South side police districts around Chicago, and works in conjunction with the city’s recent crackdown on liquor stores and convenience stores that have been used by gangs as hangouts and centers for illegal activity.

The city is allocating $4 million to the Department of Buildings for the initiative.

"The city will go after the owners, whether it's the bank or an individual owner of the property," said Felicia Davis with the Mayor's Office. "The city will maintain the property once the buildings have come down."

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