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City begins tearing down vacant buildings under new anti-crime program

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Updated: August 14, 2012 6:35AM

Used condoms and small ziplock bags often used in the drug trade littered the hardwood floor. Gang graffiti scarred the walls.

Reginald Taylor was robbed at gunpoint in front of the vacant house just last month.

On Thursday, the city tore the reputed crime magnet down, one of nearly 200 vacant buildings slated to be demolished or secured in high crime neighborhoods.

“I’m glad they started here. It’s been getting ruthless,” Taylor said.

Will demolishing the abandoned home in the 7100 block of South Rhodes and other vacant buildings reduce crime? Mayor Rahm Emanuel hopes so.

The city Buildings Department on Thursday kicked off the mayor’s newly announced $4 million plan to secure or knock down the vacant buildings over the next few months in hopes of reducing crime.

The home on South Rhodes was one of the first to be demolished.

It had become a hangout for drug dealers and prostitutes, said Taylor, 59, of the 7200 block of Dobson.

Taylor said when he was robbed last month, his attackers struck him in the face and stole his cell phone and approximately $35 in cash. He said he needs to undergoe eye surgery because of his injury.

“I was lucky they didn’t shoot me,” he said. “At least now they won’t have anywhere to hang out.”

But Toynesha Richardson, 17, a former Roberson High School student, isn’t convinced the demolition will make a difference.

“They should’ve tried to do something with the building. Now it’s just gonna be another empty lot,” she said.

Many neighborhood residents said the house had become an eyesore.

Since 2008, the building was cited nearly three dozen times for violations ranging from high weeds and overgrown shrubs to excessive trash and debris, according to the Buildings Department.

Although city officials called the building “structurally unsound,” the top floor of the house contained new duct work, drywall, windows and tile, most of which will be reused, according Ed Glascott, machine operator at KFL Demolition.

“Almost none of it’s going to wind up in the dump,” he said, as he prepared to knock down the 100-year-old home. “The wood, the brick, the metal — 90 percent of it will be recycled.”

Roosevelt Nelson, 56, watched from across the street as soot and concrete particles billowed during the two-hour demolition process.

“I don’t know if this is the answer,” he said. “But after all the crime and violence and malice this neighborhood’s seen, something has to change.”

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