CityCouncil, Crime, Housing, recent

Plywood Beckons!

“Nobody home!
Steal My Plumbing!
Trash Me!”
Posted by 6-2-2013
Most street-wise people know not to be a victim of crime. Never flash a large roll of cash or open a very full wallet in plain site. Avoid bragging about your Mercedes out in the lot. Avoid certain neighborhoods at all times. Avoid others at peak crime hours. Don’t pick fights in bars. Carry a real police whistle. Carry pepper spray.
These hints aren’t anything new. Criminals needn’t be the brightest bulbs in the lamp to victimize people successfully. Following the hints buys you an edge.
Protecting yourself is often straight-forward. Protecting property may be a tad more complex. But, again, basic cautions are simple, particularly if protecting, say, your house.
Don’t let mail accumulate on the porch while away for more than a day or two. Have a friend pick up the advertising that piles up on your door mat or hangs from your door knob. Set your lights on timers so your house looks occupied. Make sure your outside lights go on every night. It’s not that hard.
Unoccupied houses are the easiest targets. Leaving a house empty for long periods is an invitation to plumbing thieves or vandals. A simple solution is to rent it out, even at less than an optimum rate. An occupied home is less of a target and can be insured.
But nothing draws vandals and thieves as the most modest of building materials — plywood! Plywood, the least offensive of wood products, is now a symbol, an attractor of urban blight.
Boarded-up homes take guesswork out of the equation for baddies. There is no doubt that the plywood on windows and doors means a house is unoccupied.
Plywood is not armor. It’s easily breached with a simple lever – a pry bar makes quick work of a covered window or door. And, if a thief is smart enough to remove the plywood from window or door at the back of the house, the boarded up windows and doors on the front will handily conceal those up to no good who have broken in.
It’s one of the ironies that the city boards up houses to, what was it, ‘protect them.’ The irony, of course, is that this simple building material rather than deterring thieves might as well be a neon sign that flashes: “Nobody home! Steal My Plumbing! Trash Me!”
Board-ups are simple and allow city governments to avoid dealing with unoccupied or abandoned housing. Board-ups are no substitute for enlightened policies and procedures on what to do with abandoned homes. Many cities have found that the most permanent and cost-effective approach is to sell them for a token amount (say a dollar) to qualified buyers. Then with help getting the buyer a loan to make a house livable, the house can be occupied quickly.
Cheap plywood has become the substitute for this kind of enlightened local government policy. A sensible plan is aimed at protecting a town’s tax base, keeping down the spread of crime, attracting responsible people to stay in town, and seeks to make the town a more attractive place to draw new productive residents
After WW II, Berlin had thousands of damaged buildings. Less than a decade later, thoughtful policies, the hard work of German citizens, intelligent financing and clear planning changed Berlin into a showplace of the west.
Kankakee can do the same – it just shouldn’t be to go for the plywood and nails.
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One thought on “Plywood Beckons!

  1. Joanie, I just found this! It’s brilliant, so topical and so relevant to our current needs, wherever we live. I particularly liked the reference to rebuilding Berlin, how an enlightened policy (no plywood, selling for a dollar and loans to new residents) can help a local community survive and thrive. Many thanks! Pamela Ann Smith (A journalist in London).
    P.S. You can find out more about me via my own blog, (I also happen to be your long lost cousin!)

    Posted by Pamela Ann Smith | October 5, 2017, 7:24 am

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