City officials raise concern over drug houses after death of Evanston woman

Marissa Page, Assistant City Editor

After an Evanston woman was found dead this weekend in the yard of a suspected drug house, which is any property associated with the use, production or sale of illegal drugs, city officials have expressed increased concern for such properties throughout Evanston.

Police said the 31-year-old woman was found unresponsive early Saturday morning in the rear yard of a property at 1716 Dodge Ave. She was pronounced dead after being taken to Evanston Hospital.

“Detectives are still investigating and dealing with the circumstances surrounding the female that was discovered there,” said Evanston police Cmdr. Joseph Dugan, of the case.

Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) said he and Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl became aware of the property at 1716 Dodge Ave. about three weeks ago. During a walkthrough of the neighborhood where a shooting occurred nearly two months ago, they observed people smoking marijuana outside the house. The Sept. 15 shooting of Evanston resident Cesario Cox Sr. took place less than a block away from the suspected drug house, both of which are within one block of Evanston Township High School.

After contacting the Evanston Police Department, Braithwaite said the property was under surveillance by an armored car for several weeks until the vehicle was relocated to another site shortly before the discovery of the woman’s body.

Braithwaite said the drug house issue is nothing new for the city. City Council established an ordinance for dealing with “nuisance premises” such as drug houses and overcrowded buildings in 2007, but he believes the ordinance is due for an update.

“(Council) wrote the ordinance back in 2007 and I can’t tell you how many times we’ve used it, but we need to really address it so our staff can be more aggressive,” Braithwaite said. “Through the ordinance we can make landlords more responsible. If they have some financial stake, we should have the ability to fine them and that will drive them to be more responsible with their property.”

Ald. Brian Miller (9th) said he felt that stricter enforcement was just one facet of the issue with Evanston drug houses.

“I think it’s important to do some outreach to people involved in these properties,” Miller said. “If there’s a problem with drug use in these properties, then we should make every effort we can to build relationships and help these people receive the treatment they need.”

While there are drug houses located in various locations throughout the city, Braithwaite lamented the proximity of 1716 Dodge Ave. to ETHS.

“We deal with drug houses all the time,” Braithwaite said. “What bothers me and has me emotional is that this young lady died in close proximity to a high school.”

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