We've all seen these houses in various neighborhoods.

I grew up on 4th Street in Bangor when I was a kid. For years, there was an empty house across the street from us that was just all boarded up, taking up space. The kids in the neighborhood loved it. We managed to pry off one of the plywood boards on one of the back windows, and it was the unofficial clubhouse for us kids.

It's a frustrating, ongoing process to figure out who owns the spots, never mind convincing them to do something about it.

Of course, until A) some grownups ratted us out to the cops, and they came numerous times and shut us down, and B) eventually the place was torn down. We youngsters felt like we were robbed. We never did anything particularly bad. Maybe a couple of kids learned how to smoke butts, and maybe a couple more made out for the first time. But basically, we were harmless.

These days that isn't really the case.

Back in the '70s, it was easy for kids in places like that. These days, if kids tried to get into a place like that, there could be people squatting there, there could be drug dealers, and the overall structural safety just isn't there. The city of Bangor is trying to reduce its list of some 100 condemned properties. But in most cases, their hands are tied.

A lot of these homes are owned by out-of-state banks. As long as the property taxes are in good standing, there's not much that can be done, except a whole lot of asking. Often, those queries go unanswered. So it's a frustrating, ongoing process to figure out who owns the spots, never mind convincing them to do something about it.

A lot of progress has been made already, believe it or not.

Bangor has shrunk its original list from 200, down to about 100. I know where I live in Hampden, they had to start cracking down on vacant properties. We passed ordinances that force homeowners to keep up their physical property. Maybe Bangor can work on the same, as many feel dilapidated empty houses damage their home values.

Bangor is definitely trying to deal with this, according to NewsCenter Maine. But it's a long, thankless road that more often than not, leads to nowhere. But with all the potential safety concerns, it's good to know something is being done.

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