Jail Time Proposed for Owners of Dangerous Buildings
(Chicago Sun Times) — Seven weeks after two Chicago firefighters died when a roof collapsed at an abandoned laundry, the City Council agreed Wednesday to jail building owners whose code violations result in death or injury. During a fire, Chicago firefighters Edward Stringer and Corey Ankum were searching the building in the 1700 block of East 75th Street for homeless people who had taken up residence there when the roof came down on them. Seventeen firefighters were also injured while fighting a fire at the building, which had a history of more than a dozen code violations. Chicago already has a number of “criminal housing ordinances” on the books that empower the city to seek jail time as a penalty for housing violations. Building owners who look the other way while their properties become havens for “chronic illegal activity” also face hefty fines. But that’s not enough, newly-appointed Health Committee Chairman Jim Balcer (11th) said. At Balcer’s behest, the City Council agreed to put building owners whose “imminently dangerous and hazardous” code violations result in “severe injury or death” in jail for up to six months. Owners who fail to secure their vacant buildings would also face time behind bars. So would those whose vacant buildings without security guards are the scene of forcible felonies. Currently, the city has to warn a building owner that a security guard was missing before jail time can be imposed. “If you’re going to spend anywhere from 30 days to six months in jail, people will be held accountable. It’ll make a person work that much harder to make the building secure,’’ Balcer said.