Baltimore’s collection of vacant homes remains a catalyst for crime – CBS Baltimore

BALTIMORE (WJZ) – Fires aren’t the only danger emanating from Baltimore’s vacant buildings.

In theory, empty homes should be sheltered and secured to keep people out — but that’s not always the case.

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Some vacant homes have holes where they once had front doors, creating a breeding ground for criminals and other hazards. Baltimore has about 15,000 vacant homes.

“You get [vacants] You’re essentially devaluing the crime,” said East Baltimore resident Kenny Bradford.

Empty house in the 200 block of South Stricker Street where three firefighters live — Lt. Paul Butrim, Lieutenant Kelsey Sadler and Kenny Lacayo — seriously injured Monday have been vacant since 2010.

The fire that killed the firefighters was just one in a long line of Fire in vacant buildings. But fire is not the only problem.

Bentley said: “Nobody knows someone is there until they walk into the house or something.

Around the corner from City 8 Fire Station, the entire 800 block of North Gilmor Street is slated for demolition.

However, many homes are not secure. The plywood panels that once concealed the holes have been pry open. They are exposed to the elements and are available to anyone who walks by.

“You can easily walk inside here and just go upstairs to get some fresh air or something,” Bentley said.

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In 2020, police pulled a body from an empty house on Argyle Avenue in West Baltimore. Although the Baltimore Police Department doesn’t tally every single body removed from an empty house, it does keep track of the number tied to the number of murder victims.

Going back over the past 5 years, there have been 22 murders in or on vacant lots.

The city has long pointed to the sheer presence of vacant buildings as a catalyst for crime.

“If you look at the map of where the murders take place, the most violent crime is in the areas with the most vacancy,” said City Councilor Odette Ramos.

Baltimore Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy noted that vacant buildings are a visual bright spot in the city’s communities and have an impact on the health and well-being of residents.

Tiffany Woods, a Baltimore resident, said: “Last summer they had people going around setting them up on purpose.

In 2019, arson investigators determined that dozens of fires were intentionally set inside Baltimore’s vacant buildings. The police arrested two men in connection with them. Court records show one of them was convicted for his role in the arson.

Years later, fires inside vacant buildings are still a problem – especially in West Baltimore.

“Do we want the city to knock down every empty house in the city so this never happens again? Absolutely,” said Rich Langford, president of the Baltimore IAFF Local 784 Fire Brigade. “Until then, we will continue to do our job to protect the citizens of Baltimore.”

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Baltimore isn’t the only city grappling with vacant buildings. Detroit has a demolition department dedicated to getting rid of them. It has destroyed 20,000 buildings within the past few years.

https://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2022/01/28/baltimores-collection-of-vacant-houses-remains-a-catalyst-for-crime/ Baltimore’s collection of vacant homes remains a catalyst for crime – CBS Baltimore

Tom Vazquez

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