Steel is the new blight block

From Detroit to Pontiac, neighborhoods all over Metro Detroit are dotted with boarded up houses. But now the way cities keep people out of those vacant properties is changing. Instead of plywood, some communities are switching to steel. That change is already making a difference in Highland Park, on streets plagued by blight and crime.

"I can walk right over there to this house, take my hands, apply it to plywood and it will fall in," said Robert Mosley, a Highland Park resident. 

Walk down a street in Highland Park and you will probably see a vacant home boarded up with plywood. But after a child was sexually assaulted last year in this vacant house on Church, residents like Robert Mosley and city leaders knew something had to be done. 

"This here will deter any criminal to try to gain access," said Highland Park Police Chief Kevin Coney.

They say the answer is simple: use metal and not wood to board up these homes.

There's only been a one percent rate where someone has successfully been able to get product off and gain access and in both instances it took couple of hours," said Eric Foster from JNF Global Product Solutions.

Eric Foster represents a group that is pushing for the use of metal over wood to secure vacant homes to help keep communities safe. He says so far, cities like Highland Park and Inkster have jumped onboard, despite some critics saying metal costs more than wood.

Foster says prices vary, but you can secure a home using metal for about $1,500 versus around $850 for wood. But the wood can't be used over and over again.

"You can use this three or four times, you get long term use of it and this is not going to be solved overnight," said Highland Park Fire Chief Derek Hillman. 

Some critics of the initiative say using metal just gives scrappers another item to get their hands on, but those in favor of program say think again.

"For a scrapper, the value is $150 value that we've been able to determine for the product if it was scrapped, but what we've seen is that people go to the easier to access homes, the homes they can enter without force and that's the plywood," said Foster.

"If we can get rid of all this, it will help the community," said Mosley.
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