Operation Safer Streets: Combating the Vacant Home Problem

By: Meghan Dwyer Email
By: Meghan Dwyer Email

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Abandoned and foreclosed homes are becoming a big safety risk in Rockford neighborhoods.

To combat the problem, the city is resurrecting what's called the problem properties committee: a group that has been defunct for nearly four years.

The city has a lot of information about empty homes, but until now it hasn't put all that information in one place. The police and fire departments, the city's code enforcement division, and the city's legal staff are joining forces to make a new database.

That database, while not available to the public, will list all problem homes. The goal is to figure out who owns the homes and then hold them accountable: make them clean up the property, fix windows, and secure doors. By sharing information, the city hopes it will be easier to rid Rockford's neighborhoods of empty, unsafe buildings.

Pat Hoey from the Rockford Police said, "If we're getting a lot of calls or a house has a lot of outstanding liens because of code violations, we want to be able to get a hold of a property and find a way to convince them, if need be force them, to address the situation so it's not a blight on the neighborhood."

The committee just started meeting for the first time a week and a half ago. If you have one of these homes in your neighborhood police urge you to call and report it.

Loves Park keeps a Spreedsheet of all foreclosed homes, but they don't know if they are vacant until someone complains that the grass hasn't been cut. Just last night, Freeport's City Council debated a new ordinance that would force homeowners to register if their homes are vacant, but that wouldn't apply to the banks and they own most of these places.

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