There are roughly 16,000 vacant rowhouses scattered about Baltimore. The city owns about 3,500 of them. A Baltimore police major owns one of them. It's ironic because most of these houses are attributed to slumlords and absentee landlords. But here a high ranking member of the city police force owns one of the city's foremost symbols of blight.
The major, Melvin T. Russell, commands the Eastern District, historically one of the most violent and one of the most pockmarked by vacant rowhouses. It's the same district in which a 13-year-old was recently raped inside a vacant.
Read the full story here, including past police raids and tenants who tore the house up and set it on fire. Read another one of Scott articles, on the problems of vacant rowhouses and more details of the blighted block where the rape occurred.
Russell explained to The Sun's Scott Calvert how he got the rowhouse (he used to live there) and the difficulties of restoring it to some use:
"I'm an advocate against these people," Russell said Monday, referring to owners of run-down vacants. "Unfortunately, I find myself in the same predicament I'm against. I'm sure everybody has their own story, but this is not a situation where I'm turning a blind eye, turning my back, just because I can. There is a reason why it has not been brought up to par, and it's simply financial. Do I feel bad about it? Absolutely. … If somebody wants to come up with a viable solution, I'm all ears."