Police target 'problem' businesses to curb violence

July 9, 2012 (CHICAGO)

It's the latest initiative to try and stop the violence in Chicago.

In a press release, the city identified over three dozen businesses -- mostly small neighborhood stores -- cited repeatedly for violations.

Sam Joudeh cannot understand it. After 36 years, during which he befriended mayors and police superintendents, his combination liquor store and deli at 43rd and Cottage Grove is now called a problem business.

"This is a neighborhood store. I know the people around here for years and years. I been in this area since 1976," he told ABC7. "We have no problem. He's liar. Anybody says that, he's lying."

In May, city officials listed Joudeh's among 38 problem businesses. Stores made the list because of sanitation issues, outdated merchandise and other violations, including the sale of single cigarettes at the counter or near the entrance.

"It's not the stores, it's the people outside the stores. You know, just guys hanging out. That's who are mainly selling the loose cigarettes," said Gregory Hulbert, neighborhood resident.

"If you're in a neighborhood, you're trying to build a sense of a community. These liquor stores are not a business. They're a haven for gang bangers and drug dealers," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The mayor called the crackdown another part of his administration's anti-violence strategy. He also said the city Department of Buildings would spend $4 million to secure or demolish 200 abandoned structures identified as sites where gang members congregate.

"Vacant properties and buildings are an element that facilitate serious gang issues," Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said.

A liquor store at 79th and Cottage Grove identified as a problem in the past has rehabilitated itself by reducing its hours, removing malt liquor, high alcohol wine, and drug paraphernalia from its shelves and hiring an armed security guard.

Don Rogers, who works at the problem Citgo at 67th and Cottage Grove, questioned the crackdown's fairness because the vast majority of affected stores are in minority neighborhoods on the South and West sides.

"You got all kinds of people all over the city, and they doing all kinds of things all over the city. There's nothing different between the North Side and West Side. They just target these areas," he said.

City officials say the 38 stores listed in Monday's news release will be subject to repeated inspections and new violations or failure to correct existing problems could result in their business licenses being revoked.

Officials say all that it takes to get a store you might suspect is a problem is a call to 3-1-1. That gets a city inspector out to look at the place.

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