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KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — Demolition crews started tearing down the first of 23 abandoned houses, which City Hall says will all be gone in the next two weeks.

Two houses near 20th Street and Chelsea Avenue are part of the campaign to eliminate blight.

$10-million is being spent over the next two years to demolish 800 dangerous buildings across Kansas City.

“Blight is not only a source of problems for the city, but for the police department,” Mayor Sly James said.

The goal is to make the city look better and attract new development to neighborhoods that need more people living there.

Vacant or abandoned homes often breed crime. So much so that police Chief Darryl Forte has said he’d be willing to forgo hiring more police officers if that money would instead be used to tear down dangerous buildings that are a source of problems.

“The most important part to me is the welfare of our children,” Forte said. “These are places that they can wander into, possibly the structures can collapse. We don’t know how many we’re saving from that. Stepping on needles, stepping on nails.”

Those who live near these dilapidated homes applaud the effort, saying it’s about time someone took action.

“It’s very overgrown,” said Nick Dodson, who grew up across from the blighted buildings. “It’s not being very well kept. I think tearing it down, getting somebody else in there, it will be easier to keep up on the land. Even if no one moves in, it probably will be easier for the city to keep up on it.”

Private companies are helping the city by donating 65 building demolitions to the effort. The work of Kissick Construction and Industrial Salvage and Wrecking are saving taxpayers $600,000.

“There’s a lot of good demolition contractors in Kansas City,” said Chuck Cacioppo, president of Industrial Salvage & Wrecking. “I hope they jump on the bandwagon as well and help the city tear down some more of these houses.”

Neighbors say when land is cleared in urban core areas, it offers opportunities to breathe new life into communities so more people can make them their home.