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Owner 'Sorry' After Woman Raped in Building with History of Code Violations

By Benjamin Woodard | February 4, 2014 7:05am
 Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said he reported building violations at the North Shore Avenue apartment complex.
North Shore Avenue Sexual Assault
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ROGERS PARK — An owner of the building where a 24-year-old woman was robbed and sexually assaulted last week in a basement laundry room said he was sorry for what happened and had begun making repairs at the building, including fixing broken locks.

The building's main exterior doors were not shutting properly, other doors had "defective locks" and a window leading to the building's laundry room — where the woman was attacked Wednesday — had a broken window pane, according to an Aug. 21 city building inspection report listing 11 violations.

When reached by phone Monday, building co-owner and manager Rick Olsen admitted the building had problems but said some had been addressed.

"Things are going to change — they don’t have to convince me," Olsen said. "It was just a very depressing thing. I’m just very sorry for what happened to that girl."

Olsen said he had already fixed broken locks and has plans to fix the rest of the violations.

"If the security was better, like it’s going to be, I don’t know if it would have prevented [the attack], but at least it would add some deterrents," he said.

Olsen also said he had planned even before the attack to install surveillance cameras around the building and in the laundry room after the washers and dryers there had been broken into and robbed.

Police didn't say how the attacker got into the building.

As of Monday night, the building’s doors leading to apartment stairwells appeared to be in working order and the window leading to the basement laundry room had been reattached to its frame. Olsen said he would replace the windows with heavy-duty block windows to make the room more secure.

Immediately after the attack, tenants and Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said they felt the building "wasn't secure" and hasn't been for some time.

"It's not just a [maintenance issue]; it's a matter of security," tenant Jennifer Schwartz, 35, said from her apartment late last week. "And it's not OK."

Inspectors visited the four-story apartment building — at 1235-1243 W. North Shore Ave. — again on Friday at Moore's request.

The report from that inspection cited 21 violations, including a "fall hazard" due to undersized iron balcony railings; a broken window pane; rotted window panes; missing dead-bolt locks on front entryways; insecure foyer areas; and incomplete information on a sign displaying building management contact information.

Police said the attacker walked up to the woman from behind and covered her eyes with his hands about 7 p.m. Wednesday. He told her he had a gun and demanded cash, according to police, then took the woman's keys and phone from her pocket.

When the woman began to struggle, the man struck her head against a support beam before sexually assaulting her, police said.

A police spokesman said Monday night there had been no arrests or charges in the case. Police ask anyone with information to call detectives at 312-744-8263 and mention case No. HX132177.

The city had cited the building as early as 2003, according to administrative hearing records. Records from one hearing indicated violations for a broken door frame and screen.

In 2006, a city inspection found rotted window frames, missing smoke detectors and a defective porch system.

In 2007, an administrative law judge fined building co-owner Jack Richter — Olsen's associate — $1,450 for code violations that included a defective porch system and busted walkways.

A 2009 inspection found one apartment that was insufficiently heated.

Three inspections in 2010 found rusty and insecure gutters, an insufficiently heated apartment, a loose door knob and a door that wouldn't properly shut.

In November 2012, inspectors noted a broken boiler and inadequate heat in several apartments on two separate days.

The city filed a complaint against Richter in January 2013 for not providing heat to tenants. The case was dismissed about a month later.

City Law Department spokesman Roderick Drew said a broken boiler was to blame in that instance and said there was "full compliance" before the case was dismissed without penalty.

Regarding the most recent violations, Buildings Department spokeswoman Mimi Simon said the city "takes these violations seriously" and would set a court date to ensure compliance.

Olsen, who lives in Rogers Park and owns other buildings in the neighborhood, said he was "lulled into a false sense of security" at the quiet North Shore Avenue building.

He also said it was "not uncommon" for buildings of similar size to his to "get a few complaints a year" and be cited by the city.

He said other area buildings had a similar amount of security.

"Did you look at the other buildings on the block?" he asked.