By Carolyn Rusin

March 29, 2011

The number of foreclosures jumped last year in Palatine, according to a Chicago organization that tracks such data, with the vacancies traditionally affecting property values, sense of community and opening the door to crime.

There were 782 foreclosures in the village in 2010, up nearly 45 percent from 540 in 2009, reports Record Information Services for the Woodstock Institute’s quarterly report.

The Woodstock Institute, a non-profit research and policy organization based in Chicago, started compiling the foreclosure statistics two years ago, though they began analyzing distressed properties in 2004. Reports for the last quarter of 2010 and the entire last year in Chicago and the six-county metropolitan area were released in February.

“A lot has focused on the suburbs, because over the last two years what we saw is a lot of new growth in the foreclosure area has taken place in the suburbs,” said Geoff Smith, the institute’s  senior vice president. “They impact the local property market. Their value is affected by that. You see crime being a factor and there’s neighborhood stability. With families leaving, a sense of community is being affected.”

The data, which is used by all level of governmental officials, is used “to help understand patterns – if there is a population change or who’s buying homes and when,” Smith said. “In Palatine, along with a number of other northwest suburbs, the high percentage of foreclosure activity is tied to condo foreclosure.”

Specifically, of the 782 foreclosures, 546 were condominiums, 226 were single family houses and 10 multi-family, such as apartment or condominium buildings.

Sam Trakas, Palatine assistant village manager, was not familiar with the research and said the village does not keep statistics on foreclosed properties. And because the village has no real estate transfer tax, it can’t track when homes sell, he said.

Banks notify the village of foreclosed homes they own, as required by state law, Trakas said. Other owners of foreclosures do not, but if necessary the village can check court documents.

“We’re aware of all the foreclosures in Palatine,” said Trakas, declining to characterize the number in any way. “The number is similar to other communities with the same demographic.”

He said there’s been no spike in costs to the village for the foreclosures.

“If we’re forced to maintain a property, we will,” he said. If for instance, the village has to cut grass or provides other maintenance, the owner of the home is charged and could face a citation for violating local laws. Banks provide maintenance for the foreclosures they own.

For law enforcement, empty houses could mean trouble, such as squatters or stolen fixtures, but Palatine police say not in their town.

Cmdr. Kurt Schroeder, surprised to hear the number of foreclosures, says a vacant foreclosed house is not much different than a house while homeowners are away or outdoor lights are not on.

“For the most part, they just sit there dark and quiet,” Schroeder said.

Extra patrols can be arranged if there was a cause for concern. Plus, he said, officers give out crime alert notices in an effort to help deter crime.

Last year, some 1,700 notices were left on homes where newspapers have piled up or garage doors were left open – signs of an easy target for crime. Notices also were left on cars where purses or other valuables are left in plain view.

“Our officers are out there,” Schroeder said.

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