As several young men gathered on street corners near Phoenix Liquors at 2441 E. 75th St., it remained closed Monday, one of several businesses the City of Chicago shuttered as part of crime-fighting efforts.
Mayor Rahm Emmanuel announced Monday that his plan which began in the spring, to close up businesses believed to be “havens for crime” and “conduits for criminal activity” has been effective.
In April, the mayor announced that the Chicago Police Department, the Department of Buildings (DOB), the Law Department and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) would begin collaborating to take action against businesses that are menacing to communities. At that time, some three dozen businesses were on the city’s “flagged” businesses list.
Though most of them were gas stations and grocery stories, a McDonald’s restaurant in the Bronzeville neighborhood, a Far South Side dollar store and a West Side Dunkin Donuts restaurant were also on the list.
Monday Emanuel pointed to the Southeast Side liquor store to prove the city’s tough stance. It closed in July.
“The message is clear that if you are a business that sells to minors or assists criminals, or you let your vacant property become a base for gang members, we will shut you down and help neighbors reclaim their communities,” said the mayor.
The strategy has led to more than 100 new investigations, 34 business closures and 223 building demolitions. City officials said Phoenix Liquors had 515 calls for police service in the last 12 months – including a shooting outside its doors. The DOB moved to close the store after an inspection revealed unsafe conditions. Four months after its closure, the owners still have not made repairs needed to meet the city’s safety compliance standards and the property is now in foreclosure.
“We are using every asset at our disposal to keep our neighborhoods safe and setting our sights on problem businesses, violent street corners, and open drug markets,” said Mayor Emanuel, reaffirming his pledge when this initiative launched.
The city worked with community stakeholders, including aldermen and faith leaders, to build cases against the flagged businesses. Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church in the Aurburn-Gresham community on the South Side protested last spring outside of a liquor store where six people were shot – one fatally, days before the mayor launched his plan to go after some businesses. Pfleger said many of the business owners with crime at their doorstep or within their stores often don’t live in the community.
The outspoken priest said that some stores often serve as “offices” for local drug dealers and gang bangers.
“There’s illegal activity going on in and out of them, and we want them closed,” he previously told the Chicago Citizen, describing what he calls bad stores. “Why should they be making money, doing harmful things to our neighborhood, get in their car and go someplace else and live?”
Emanuel said since April more than 100 problem businesses have been investigated. These locations combined had roughly 1,400 criminal incidents reported, nearly 1,000 arrests, 34 closures for health and safety infractions and 14 of these businesses are still closed. Additionally, 10 liquor licenses were revoked.
“The Chicago Police Department is working to aggressively take enforcement action against problem businesses that often harbor drug dealers and gang members,” By working with other City departments and the community to eliminate problem establishments and the criminal activity that occurs within them, we are ensuring that our neighborhoods are safe places for our residents to live, work and play,” said Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.
By Rhonda Gillespie