Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Another OTR Fire: Proactive approach to secure buildings needed

Overnight, yet another fire in OTR this time on Elm near Liberty. One building lost, another  damaged. This is a far to frequent occurrence in OTR and other neighborhoods and it doesn't have to happen. The city however doesn't have the resources to "patrol' buildings so its important for residents and groups to be the 'eyes and ears' of city inspections.

The key is coordination. In many neighborhoods, mine included, we have volunteers who walk around our neighborhood and check vacant buildings looking for open doors broken or unsecured windows. When a problem is found city inspectors are notified. We realized a couple of years ago that these inspectors can't be everywhere. The net result for our neighborhood is we are not having many suspicious fires. Copper theft is down some and neighborhood children know if they are caught around a building or throwing things at one, the Police will be called. Often cameras are carried and if a problem is spotted  (like fallen downspout) we send the owner an email and photo as a reminder

The upside of being proactive is that residents now call our volunteer spotters whenever they see something. In some neighborhoods these volunteers carry screw guns to throw a few screws in a board when they see one where some open has begun to pry it open.. Of COURSE, I am not suggesting that people take issues in their own hands.

The other thing we are doing is monitoring foreclosure filings, sheriffs sales and transfers  to out of state LLC "Investors' who are not likely to want to maintain a property. On property that is for sale we always contact the Realtor, advise them if its a illegal apartment conversion, has VBML or condemn orders on it so they are ON NOTICE. We also provide them with a link resource page with our website, article and news about our neighborhood. Many of these Realtors are unfamiliar with our area and we think by being proactive  they may set their sights a little higher.

I am sure that between all the groups in OTR that a volunteer early inspection team of volunteers could be put together, assigned known "hot spot" areas. A 30 minute walk checking on some buildings could save them and certainly thats the goal here

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