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Published: Saturday, 7/23/2011 - Updated: 4 years ago

Councilman: Demolish houses to prevent arson

Craig Craig

The Toledo councilman representing East Toledo and parts of the south end wants the city to demolish more vacant homes in an effort to curtail arsons.

After a string of vacant-home fires that compelled the Toledo fire department this week to offer a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved, Councilman Mike Craig said spending more money to tear down dilapidated structures also would help.

“At the current rate of taking down 300 homes a year, the backlog will continue,” Mr. Craig said. “We are not talking about a pothole. We are talking about people’s homes and lives.”

Mr. Craig said there are 600 homes on the city’s demolition list.

“Each year we add more units to the list,” he said. “The process needs to include a better way to secure homes waiting to be demolished. A piece of plywood across the door is not enough to keep vandals and arsonists out of a vacant home.”

The city spends an average of $3,000 to $5,000 to tear down each vacant house, said Jen Sorgenfrei.

Friday at 2:56 a.m., a vacant home at 727 Hoag St., was the most recent in a string of fires on the city’s east side. The blaze spread to a neighboring home, causing damage.

An arson garage fire was reported at 3:44 a.m. at 1230 Navarre Ave. That fire also spread to nearby garages.

Since July 1, 14 vacant properties have been intentionally set on fire, according to statistics from the Toledo Fire Department. Another four occupied structures were intentionally set on fire this month.

Authorities have not said if the recent fires are related.

Last summer, the city of Toledo waved more reward money in the face of the public in hopes it would entice witnesses to identify the culprits behind an increasing number of arsons. The reward for information about arsons was then up to $25,000.

The money was to come from the city’s Law Enforcement Trust Fund. The reward money is not paid from the city’s general fund, officials said, but rather from a combination of sources, including an FBI grant. The city had experienced 80 suspicious fires by mid-July, 2010, up 37 percent from the previous year.

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