Monday, December 14, 2009
Hawkman Senses Get Property Boarded in Record Time
Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman
Last week I was driving past a vacant property in the Hawthorne neighborhood and I saw some people tossing scrap wood out of the back of the house. I stopped to watch for a bit, especially after hearing reports about similarly questionable activity happening nearby. It looked like workers weren't removing any fixtures but were just taking out loose wood from somewhere. The photos above seem to indicate that, and I called Aggate Construction (not a typo, there are two g's in the name) and confirmed that they had orders from the mortgage company to remove wood that was not attached.
But I was driving by the next day and something still didn't seem right. Every once in a while, I get that feeling, and whenever it strikes me I stop and check things out. My Hawkman senses worked in this case, since when I surveyed the property I found...
The lock had been cut with bolt-cutters, and then placed back on the door to make it look from the street as if it were secure. Note where I've circled the cut lock in the photo below.
So I called 911 and reported a "property open to trespass." This particular property had been the target of frequent break-ins before, and the way this break-in was covered up made me believe that the perpetrators would be back soon. So a 311 call wasn't going to cut it.
Not wanting to miss anything, I did call it in to 311 next. That call did NOT go well. In the past, when residents have called about this property, we've specifically emphasized how much of a gem it is, and how important it is to keep it secure and therefore salvageable. And it seemed like the more we expressed our concerns and asked politely that they speed up a boarding process, the LONGER it took to get the place secure.
So when I received the standard "We'll get to it within five business days" response, I pushed back. "That's not good enough. This is a property the neighborhood wants saved and we've had to sit around and wait for the city to keep it secure. The last time it was broken open it took well over five days to secure. And even though we both know it's illegal and we can't condone it, I know concerned residents who will come and slap a board on it themselves. I don't want my neighbors doing anything illegal, so who do I talk to who can get this property secure TODAY?"
That conversation wasn't going anywhere, but luckily the police showed up right then. They were somewhat miffed because the dispatch operator coded my call as "trespass in progress," which is much higher up on the priority list. I explained that I'm the Housing Director of the neighborhood, I know the difference, and I was specific about what was happening precisely because I didn't want them responding to a call when they had more pressing matters.
We got that settled, and the people with the legal authority to do so crossed the threshold and confirmed that nobody was inside. I repeated my concern to them about keeping the property secure as quickly as possible and was told they'd try to get an emergency board-up by the end of the day if not the next.
Finding that result more satisfying but not entirely so, I kept on pushing for a more immediate solution. I called Aggate Construction and explained the situation to them as well: "If you don't get someone out to secure this property WITHIN THE HOUR, we'll have an emergency board-up crew out there. This door is the ONLY opening NOT boarded, so if this does get boarded then you and the mortgage company are going to have a whole new level of problems on your hands."
Sure enough, by the end of the day, this is what I saw when driving home.