Wednesday, January 20, 2010

False Alarm at 2654 Upton Ave N

Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Last night, I received a rather disconcerting email forwarded to me. It described men in masks removing pipes from 2654 Upton Ave N, and loading them into a blue Ford pickup, license plate #337 AHP. Under the principle that a threat to copper pipes in one corner of NoMi is a threat to copper pipes everywhere, I checked things out this morning. Ultimately, I found that everything was on the up-and-up.

However, when I first arrived on the scene things looked like trouble...

The same blue pickup truck was parked in front of the house again. The front door was locked, but the back door was open and I could see some tools on the living room floor. Not wanting to take any chances, I went back to my car and called 911 to report a "possible trespass in progress." I described in detail what I had seen, including the email I had received the night before.

The 911 dispatcher placed the call on a high priority, and within minutes the MPD had arrived. GBT4P. They went in and were talking with the crew inside for a bit before a woman came out, got some papers from the car, and went back in the house. While I was standing outside, two vehicles stopped and asked what was going on - a good sign that neighbors are watching out for each other.

So it turns out that everybody had the right documentation to be at this house, doing what they were doing. The masks they were wearing were meant to protect them from dust as they were removing a few items. And GMHC owns the house, so we can be quite sure that the pipes removed the day prior were not due to copper theft of any kind.

I told the lady who came out with the paperwork that I didn't want to cause trouble, but the neighbors had expressed concern about what was happening and we were just being watchful. She said, "I get that all the time," which in and of itself is rather assuring too. I advised her to get rid of the moldering phone books that are like a neon sign for people wanting to break into a vacant property. Everyone was very cordial and understanding of the situation, although the police seemed visibly disappointed that they weren't able to catch copper thieves red-handed.

However, the email thread about this issue also expressed some serious concerns about the tools we have available to us to go after squatters and copper thieves. Apparently if the owner of a property isn't calling in the trespass, it seems that less charges can be filed against someone. Given that it's unlikely Deutsche Bank is going to patrol our neighborhood, we need better enforcement tools to keep our community secure.

And one of the reasons the EcoVillage saw such a quick turnaround in regards to crime and break-ins was because residents had consistent conversations with people in various departments of the city about who could do what about certain issues, and what kind of language to use that would most accurately describe a situation to 311 and 911.

To that end, this month's "Dessert with Don" Ward 5 meeting will center around problem property procedures. That meeting is at UROC, Monday January 25, from 7-8:30. I would think this would be a perfect forum to discuss many of the issues surrounding the tools citizens and the city have when working together on issues like this. I hope to see many of you there.

1 comment:

Johnny Northside said...

Good work, Hawthorne Hawkman. But I wonder what systemic policy changes are needed so that a break-in at a bank-owned house gets treated the same as a break-in at any other house?

Somehow I think this probably means holding feet to the fire and making the banks sign off on something in advance. The big fat vacant house fees don't seem to be having much impact...I think the banks might be writing off losses and having the government bail them out, and the only folks who are hurt are the small time would-be home owners who would like to put sweat-equity into a fixer-upper.

But, hey, you're the guy with banker blood in you, Jeff. You can probably explain it better, and come up with a good idea to fix it.