Chicago may mandate security in vacant buildings

 - 
Tuesday, July 1, 2008

CHICAGO--An ordinance due to hit the Chicago City Council as Security Systems News went to press on June 11 would require owners of buildings vacant for more than six months to install and “maintain a working burglar alarm system.” The ordinance was proposed by Mayor Richard Daley in an effort to clean up the city.

Dean Andrews, owner of Advanced Security Group, a systems integrator located in Chicago, expected the ordinance to pass at the June 11 City Council meeting, but is not convinced many building owners will comply with it. “Anyone who voluntarily complies with this opens themselves to a huge cost including bringing the building up to code,” Andrews said, “and that expense doesn’t even include the cost of the alarm system.”

Under the ordinance, owners of buildings vacant for more than six months would be required to register the building with the city, install a working security system and have an active account with a third-party monitoring company. Other requirements under the ordinance include property maintenance like mowed lawns and properly secured windows and doors.

Another inhibiting factor to compliance is the lack of basic infrastructure in vacant buildings, said Chester Donati, president of DMC Security Systems and president of the Illinois Electronic Security Association. “What about the communications network? There’s not likely to be power or phone in the buildings,” he said. Also, if the building is in foreclosure, he wondered, who’s responsible for maintaining the property, the building owner or the bank?

Neither Donati nor Andrews believed passage of this law would be a significant opportunity for security integrators. “A lot of the units in question are in depressed areas of the city,” said Donati. “I don’t know if I would feel comfortable sending my installers to these vacant houses without some sort of assistance.”

“I suppose in the long run [this could be beneficial], but people are reluctant to spend money,” said Andrews. “I think because there’s significant cost involved, most owners will wait until they get caught, not voluntarily comply. This could get expensive and may lead to demolishing a lot of buildings.”