Tagged: crime

A Year Ago

On February 19, 2014, a natural gas explosion caused part of 447 N Lakewood Avenue to collapse, with three people taken to the hospital for their injuries. Also, a child died as part of the home fell on him as he was walking by on the sidewalk.  The child, Troy Douglas, was walking home from school, and should have been at a birthday party later that day.

447 N Lakewood Avenue, shortly after the gas explosion that killed one person and send three to the hospital.

447 N Lakewood Avenue, shortly after the gas explosion that killed one person and send three to the hospital. Photo by Shannon Fernandez

Taken just days before the explosion -- natural gas connection at 447 N Lakewood Avenue. Photo by Shannon Fernandez

Taken just days before the explosion — natural gas connection at 447 N Lakewood Avenue. Photo by Shannon Fernandez

Residents in the home reported the smell of natural gas, and an inspector was dispatched — an inspector who allegedly found no fault with the gas connection or the furnace, despite the photo above, which clearly shows a flex tube that isn’t properly connected. Was this the cause of the explosion?

At the time of the explosion, the property was owned by Marywood Real Estate Investors, who then sold the home for $100 in April, two months after the explosion. The home is currently owned by MBE Properties, LLC, with an address in Kingsville, MD. There are no current permits on file for this property — the last permit was a demo permit to assist fire investigators so they could determine the cause of the explosion.

This is what the home looks like today:

447 N Lakewood Avenue, photo by Reader Rusty

447 N Lakewood Avenue, photo by Reader Rusty

Memorial at the front door of 447 N Lakewood

Memorial at the front door of 447 N Lakewood. Photo by Reader Rusty

Rear of 447 N Lakewood Avenue. Photo by Reader Rusty

Rear of 447 N Lakewood Avenue. Photo by Reader Rusty


Blighted Baltimore Home Once the Site of a Horrific Murder

Featured on the blog a few days ago, this home on Pulaski Highway was once the site of a gruesome murder in 1994 that left the matriarch of a powerful Baltimore family dead.

On November 16, 1994, Debra Stevens, a Gypsy palm reader and fortune teller, was found dead in her home. She had been decapitated.  Stevens was the daughter of the last of the Gypsy kings — King Dick Stevens, who died in 1959.  According to his obituary, the Gypsies Stevens were the once the most powerful Gypsy tribes, since the 1920s.  They were based in Baltimore.

The man accused of beheading Ms. Stevens, apparently tried to kill himself several times after committing the crime — first jumping in front of an Amtrak train, and then in front of a police car twice.  It was later determined the man, Douglas Thomas Clark, was a customer of Ms. Stevens, and was also mentally ill. He was committed to a state mental facility by Circuit Court Judge Clifton J Gordy, Jr., in 1995.

Peter Hermann wrote a great article in the Sun in 2009 about this story and the people involved.  It’s definitely a worthwhile read.

Link Roundup

Haven’t done one of these in a while, so there are lots of random interesting links!

Oh, the things people do in and around vacants…don’t let your kids read this one.

The Chicago City Council approved a measure that offers renters protection if their apartment building goes into foreclosure.

While many residents are pleased with the project at Uplands, in Baltimore, not all are happy with the restrictions.

So far this year, Baltimore has seen 10 fire fatalities, more than in all of 2012.  The man who died in this fire in South Baltimore was one of them.

Lots of arson in Detroit, including this vacant fire.  I guess the arsonist wanted to make sure it REALLY REALLY burned.

I remember Gary, Indiana being a mess when I was a kid — apparently decades later, it still is.  For many of the same reasons that plague Baltimore.

The battle continues over the proposed Royal Farms in Hamilton, according to this article from Baltimore Brew.

A Baltimore Sun letter to the editor regarding the city’s $107 million tax giveaway — very well done, Jeff Singer from Baltimore.

It’s nice to see property owners and developers in other cities can come up with ways to creatively use vacant properties.  Turning them into homes that aren’t over-improved, and renting them for a reasonable, appropriate rent, is a sure way to build stronger neighborhoods.  Kudos to this Cleveland developer!

Richmond’s 9th City Council District is apparently a blighted eyesore, thanks to city-owned blighted property and vacant lots.  Hmmm…

Some Chicago kids may have to walk past even more blighted vacants on their way to school, and it’s not making the parents happy.  Can’t say I blame them!

Milwaukee Fox 6 reports that police are seeing an uptick in scrappers stealing siding from homes, particularly in areas with a lot of vacants.

Shelterforce has been on a recent roll lately with the good blog posts.  This one taught me a new word:  “Metropollyanna”.  Don’t be one of those people.

Also from Shelterforce — do artists have a place in the public planning process?

Nice to see this vacant building in Station North will finally get a facelift after so many years of neglect.

Link Roundup

Lots of good stuff in the news this week!

In the Baltimore Sun, Luke Broadwater reports the Housing Authority of Baltimore City has disbanded and laid off its Housing Security Unit.  These were the folks responsible for “investigating illegal occupants, nuisance activity, unsecured vacants and vandalism”, according to the article.

Developer Mark Manzo wanted to demolish part of a historic 19th Century church to make way for a parking lot for his new townhouses in Butcher’s Hill.  According to this Baltimore Brew article, the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) denied the petition, as several neighbors, and District 13 Councilman Warren Branch protested the effort.  One neighbor called the townhouses “boring”.

Vacants are everywhere, including Japan, says Business Insider.

Since you can’t talk about vacants without mentioning Detroit… S&P has downgraded Wayne County’s credit rating to two steps above “junk”, says Bloomberg.  That’s gotta hurt.

You can’t really talk about vacants without mentioning Baltimore or HUD, either — and the Baltimore Sun reports that HUD is shrinking its Baltimore office staff by one-third, as part of a consolidation effort.

In the UK, investors and landlords are being targeted by mortgage scammers.

Speaking of the UK, Britain’s biggest mortgage fraudster was given an extra four years in prison for conspiring to defraud two banks of £61 million, according to the London Evening Standard.  One of his previous scams was selling bogus manorial titles to Americans.

Dozens of homes in New Orleans were moved and then left to deteriorate, at taxpayer expense, according to WWLVT Channel 4.  The nonprofit in charge of renovating the homes, Builders of Hope, is no longer involved in the project.  If you recall, the Baltimore Sun reported back in 2012, the same nonprofit was supposed to partner with Ray Lewis to renovate 500 homes in Baltimore, and that seems to have gone nowhere.

You know life has taken a bad turn when the feds are busting down the door, looking for your 40+ year old son who’s living in your basement.  Van Smith from the City Paper reports on former deputy mayor and state delegate Salima Siler Marriott’s latest woes.

And speaking of the feds — Philadelphia’s notorious “Slumlord Millionaire” Robert Coyle is on his way to the pokey after defrauding a couple of banks.  Nevermind the fact that he’s allegedly swindled people in his “rent to own” schemes, and forced citizens in the Kensington neighborhood of Philly to live next to his blighted nasty homes…oh, and how about the fact that he treated his tenants worse than animals and forced some of them to live without plumbing or heat?  But hey — he defrauded a couple of banks, so off to the clink he goes!

Because sometimes I like to save the best for last…

The man who raped a 13 year old girl in a vacant home (owned at the time by disbarred attorney John Reiff) has been sentenced to four life sentences.  Count ’em — 1-2-3-4.  I would say justice has been served quite nicely — I hope he also has to pay for the counseling the survivor will need to be able to move past such a horror.


Slumlord-Owned Property Raided By Police As City Demolishes Another

Police raided a home at 2615 Miles Avenue yesterday, owned by Syed Shah, who also owns the Pizza Boli’s chain.  The raid was part of a joint effort by the Baltimore City Police Department and federal law enforcement.

Mr. Shah owns several blighted properties in Remington, where the raid took place, and has earned a mention in this blog more than once.

According to an article in the Baltimore Sun, the City was planning to demolish 2605 Miles Avenue, which had no roof and structural cracks.  The home next door, also owned by Syed Shah, is in bad shape but its currently occupied.

Perhaps it’s time the City sends a clear message to Mr. Shah that his activities are not welcome in Remington, or anywhere else in Baltimore.

Link Roundup

If you live in Baltimore City, you won’t want to miss this important meeting regarding the second round of proposed irresponsible cuts to the fire department.  Your home and family could be at risk!

Yet another mortgage fraudster who operated in a low-income part of Philly has been caught and charged with fraud.  Slumlords and scam artists think if they prey on people in low-income areas they won’t get caught — WRONG!

Speaking of mortgage fraud — a Baltimore man won’t be tasting freedom for a while after scamming several lenders out of over $1 million for his “shabby” houses.

A Clinton, Maryland woman has been found guilty of mortgage fraud.  Despite receiving income from the District of Columbia Housing Authority (Section 8 rent payments), she allowed the mortgages on all of her properties to go into default and pocketed the money.

Congrats to Poppleton residents for rallying around a neighborhood park, saving it from a stalled City development plan!

Henrico (Richmond, VA area) neighbors were up in arms over two vacant properties managed by an out of state firm — Channel 8 news investigated and got results.

Hamilton residents — you’re getting a new Royal Farms whether you want it or not.  [I have to say, I agree with “HS” who left the comment “That’s the problem with one party politics–they don’t even have to pretend that they work for you.”]

Money-laundering charges were suddenly dropped against the owner of multiple blighted properties in Baltimore, Stewart Sachs.



Link Roundup

Changes coming for BCFD firefighters — the mayor’s budget calls for longer hours, and a loss of 100 to 300 positions due to attrition (depending on which media source you read, the number changes).  This equates to longer hours for what amounts to less pay.  Unfair and unwarranted, how about giving other city employees the same rotten deal, not just the ones who are charged with saving lives?

A sad commentary on public housing in Baltimore.

More suspected arson fires in Detroit, firefighters “pushed to the limits”.

The fight over the city’s new casino project continues.

The Atlantic Cities examines why skyrocketing rents are actually bad for the economy.

A Maryland attorney was indicted on nine counts of wire fraud, stemming from his real estate investment scheme, according to the FBI.

Speaking of fraud, Stewart Sachs, a slumlord we’ve written about several times, has now been charged with money laundering — specifically, a drug dealer’s loan payments.  And they say slumlords don’t commit other crimes…

A bit of drama over at the Annapolis Housing Authority — they’re not sure whether Carl Snowden, a former city alderman, will be allowed to remain chairman of the Housing Authority’s board after he’s released from jail.

The Baltimore Brew asks whether we should house the homeless in the city’s many vacants — what do you think?

While the comments flew after this story in the Brew about liquor stores, Pennsylvania was busy working to end its stranglehold on liquor sales, while in Baltimore…we want the government to have even more control.

Good news-bad news in Cleveland:  The number of vacant homes has increased, despite a decrease in foreclosures.

Milwaukee has decided to use a new strategy to beautify its vacant buildings:  artistic boardups.

Good news for Detroit, too:  Lead poisoning in children has dropped 70 percent, though you have to wonder — have property owners gotten better, or have more people simply left…so there are less children living in lead paint-filled homes?