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Trying to fix the 'ghetto of Hickory Hills'

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

 

Hickory Hills City Council members tried to come up with a solution for what one resident called “the ghetto of Hickory Hills.’’

While they couldn’t come up with a concrete answer at their July 23 meeting, the city bosses tried attacking the problem from all angles and kicking all sorts of ideas around.

Joe Piccioli, of the 7800 block of West 97th Street, addressed the council during the public comment section of the meeting regarding his concerns for the safety of his family in his neighborhood because of activities going on at vacant properties and houses occupied by people not taking care of the property north of his home.

“I feel like I live in the ghetto of Hickory Hills,’’ he said. “I am worried about letting my wife go out to walk the dog. This is not my first time here to tell you about this. Something has to be done.

“I know people are breaking into these vacant houses and there is no telling what is going on inside. It is a bad situation. I call the police nearly every evening. They respond, they come quickly, but if they issue tickets, it doesn’t change anything. These people don’t care about tickets or fines. What can be done?”

Hickory Hills Attorney Vince Cainkar said ticketing the alleged offenders is all that can be done.

“The fines will just keep escalating,’’ he said. “It can be taken to court, but it won’t result in a criminal charge.”

Alderman Mike McHugh asked if the empty properties could be boarded up and Building Commissioner John Moirano said he thought they should be condemned.

Mayor Michael Howley said that all the city can do at present is to keep ticketing the property owners.

“It is sad that you have to live in this situation,’’ Howley told Piccioli.  I know you have a very nice home. I have driven down your street and the properties you are referring to are in deplorable shape.”

The council members hashed out potential solutions.

Moirano is all in favor of demolishing the buildings.

“Give me some legal direction and I will take care of it,” he said, emphatically.

 There was point where several council members were talking at once and one could be overheard asking if the fire department could use the vacant properties as a training exercise and burn them down but Cainkar said, “No, you just can’t burn properties down that way.”

Police Chief, Al Vodicka, chimed in and said, “We can try daily patrol checks.”

The Mayor commended Piccioli for his reasonable approach in asking for help.

“We will do what we can; we will be consulting with our attorney. If we can step up enforcement we will. Your alderman will keep you in the loop.” Howley said.

Piccioli, who is a union contract plumber in Chicago, asked if he could make a “citizen’s arrest” if he catches someone in the empty houses. The mayor said, “Yes, you can.”