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Local

City cracking down on code violations in Annie Glidden North neighborhood

Damage is shown from the roof collapsing in early November at the former home of Campus Cinemas, 1015 Blackhawk Drive, DeKalb. The city obtained a search warrant to enter the building and found severe water damage, mold and structural deterioration.
Damage is shown from the roof collapsing in early November at the former home of Campus Cinemas, 1015 Blackhawk Drive, DeKalb. The city obtained a search warrant to enter the building and found severe water damage, mold and structural deterioration.

DeKALB – If video cameras were working at certain Annie Glidden North neighborhood properties, police could have made more arrests faster, according to a news release from the city.

The release says that in the past two months, three reported shots-fired incidents in the city happened at properties owned by Hunter Properties, where existing video cameras weren't working. Because of the lack of operational surveillance equipment, no video evidence to identify the shooters was recovered.

"When properties are not maintained to an acceptable standard, they become inviting targets for crime," DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery said in the release. "The police department will work with all city departments to support the efforts to enforce city codes and ordinances and ensure a safe environment, as one of the many approaches we are undertaking to keep this city safe.”

The city does not, however, require video cameras to be installed or operational.

City Attorney Dean Frieders said the three incidents occurred in the 800 block of Edgebrook Drive in August, the 1000 block of West Hillcrest Drive in September and the 900 block of Greenbrier Road in October. During the Greenbrier incident, roughly 20 rounds were fired but no one was hurt, police have said.

"The cameras would have greatly helped the investigations, obviously," DeKalb Police Cmdr. Steve Lekkas said. He emphasized the role cameras could have played in the August incident. "The shooting was right outside the property."

The city has issued hundreds of citations at those properties and more in the neighborhood, and is seeking legal rights to demolish some properties, according to the release.

Many code violations were found in properties owned or operated by subsidiaries of Hunter Properties, owned by Sam Okner.

In March, the city obtained a search warrant to inspect the Hillcrest Shopping Center, owned by a Hunter subsidiary, and found fire exits locked down, broken floor joists, significant fire and safety hazards and severe deterioration, the release says.

Although the city attempted to seek a collaborative solution, the owner failed to complete repairs within an agreed-upon timeline and forced the city to proceed with code enforcement actions.

Between the shopping center, the Hunter Tri-Frat property across the street, and a Hunter Properties location on 511 Normal Road, 360 separate citations have been issued based on clearly observed code violations, the release says.

Okner could not be reached for comment Thursday.

In the case of the former home of Campus Cinemas, 1015 Blackhawk Drive, the roof partially collapsed in early November, and the city obtained a search warrant to enter the building and found severe water damage, mold and structural deterioration.

DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith said the city wants to make it clear that the city supports responsible property owners who maintain their investment in keeping the city safe and comfortable for residents and students.

"However, the city will use every legal resource available to address properties that deteriorate or which become unsafe," Smith said.

A notice to remediate the Campus Cinemas property was sent to the owner, who still has not submitted proper documentation to commence repair work, according to the release. The city has filed a lawsuit seeking a court order for condemnation and demolition of the building. Similar action was taken on the vacant 912 Edgebrook Drive property, which the city acquired in November.

The city also took this course of action with the Otto's building on First Street and Lincoln Highway before developer John Pappas acquired the building as part of his Cornerstone project.

Community Development Director Jo Ellen Charlton said in the release that the city will continue to ensure that properties are maintained and safe.

“If owners seek to work with the city, we will use every resource available to collaborate and support reinvestment and maintenance,” Charlton said. “If owners do not choose to maintain their properties, then the code enforcement abilities of the city will be brought to bear on any properties that are unsafe for our residents and students.”

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