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Neighbors Fight Crime Outside Howard Street Store

Evanston and Chicago police have responded to a total of 78 calls at Howard-Hoyne Foods in 2012. Community members met with the City of Chicago last week to call for sanctions to the business.

At first glance, Howard-Hoyne Foods looks like your typical small convenience store, with signs advertising energy drinks, cigarettes and lottery tickets covering its windows.

But the black metal grates covering every single window and the 25-plus arrests police have made outside the store since January tell a different story.

Neighbors say the shop at 2059 W. Howard St. is a hotspot for gang and drug activity in the area, and  and Chicago police report that they responded to more than 70 incidents and made dozens of arrests at the store this year. After Evanston and Chicago residents met with the city of Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection for a hearing with the owner last week, Howard-Hoyne Foods will be required to hire a part-time security guard and install security cameras, among other measures. 

“It is a welcoming location for trouble, just plain and simple trouble,” said Ald. Ann Rainey, who attended the meeting on Aug. 23

Rainey found out about the meeting from Bernard Garbo, co-founder of Network 2424, a neighborhood watch association in Chicago that includes parts of Howard Street. The store is located on the south side of Howard Street, just over the border from Evanston.

Garbo, who lives about four blocks from the store, says neighbors have seen what appears to be drug dealing in front of the store for years, and several incidents of gang violence have taken place on that corner. He personally has seen people exchanging little packets and cash in front of the business several times, he said. 

“Yes, it could be something else, but I’d say there’s a good chance there’s drugs,” Garbo said.

Most notably, one gang member shot and killed another gang member in the parking lot outside the store in April 2009, according to Eric Palmer, a spokesperson for the . But neighbors were concerned long before the murder happened, Garbo says.

In April 2012, Chicago aldermen amended city code, allowing five or more neighbors to petition for a hearing with a storeowner if his or her business had a “deleterious impact” or was a “public nuisance.” Not long thereafter, 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore filed for a hearing with Howard-Hoyne Foods. 

“The point is, they’re failing to be good neighbors, because they’re not dealing with the problem,” Garbo said.

Store manager Hasan Musleh told Patch he believes his business is being unfairly targeted, however.

“It’s a family business, and we’ve been here for 16 years, and all of a sudden this stuff comes up,” he said. “There’s more shootings down the street and there’s more shootings down Sheridan.”

In addition to the requirement that Howard-Hoyne foods hire a part-time security guard and install security cameras, the business will also be required to display “No Trespassing” and “No Loitering” signs, clear windows of paper signs obstructing a clear view and stop selling rolling papers and Chore Boy scouring pads — a common ingredient in homemade crack cocaine pipes

Of the 19 calls Evanston police responded to outside Howard-Hoyne Foods this year, two resulted in gun-related arrests and four were related to drugs, according to Palmer. And on May 4, Evanston police detectives witnessed shots fired from the front of the store and later recovered two revolvers used by the shooter. 

Howard-Hoyne Foods will be required to shoulder the cost of hiring a part-time security guard and installing cameras — something that would also be a burden to the small business, Musleh said. 

“Of course it’s going to affect us, but they’re not taking that into consideration,” he said. “They don’t care.” 

Musleh said the store was planning to meet all the requirements set by the city of Chicago. A follow-up community meeting is set for Oct. 4, to ensure the store’s compliance. And store representatives will also be required to attend a Howard Street Business Association meeting in September. 

Ald. Rainey said she was concerned not just about the crime but about its effect on nearby businesses. 

“I know one shopkeeper who literally moved almost in the night after the last shooting,” she said, referring to a fast food restaurant. 

“I truly think that the negativity of this store affects us more than the Chicago stores,” she continued. The shopping plaza in which Howard-Hoyne Foods is located is listed for sale online, and Rainey said the store next door goes in and out of business “almost on a weekly basis."

But, she added “the best scenario is that they clean up their act and conform.”

Ann August 30, 2012 at 05:01 AM
You have me confused with someone else - I have no knowledge of this information that you attribute to me, I absolutely never said this and would request you remove this from the article. Ann Rainey "she continued, explaining that the shopping plaza in which Howard-Hoyne Foods is located is also up for sale, and the store next door goes in and out of business “almost on a weekly basis."
J C August 30, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Totally misleading headline, It should read "Crime blamed on store owner" But the truth is it has nothing to do with the store ! Until the community takes charge of it's own, Things will never change. Maybe another 100 years?
Bernard Garbo August 30, 2012 at 02:41 PM
I disagree JC. How do you propose that we, the community, are suppose to "take charge" for the lives of other people? We can't, but there is something we can do and WE ARE DOING IT ... and addressing Howard-Hoyne Foods is just one step. What we, the community, are doing is: holding bad landlords and merchants accountable. Accountable for who they rent to and for who they cater to. The "problem" people in our community represent a small fraction of those living here. But those "problem" people are the ones out on the street regularly. The "problem people" try to intimidate good neighbors ... which is why we, the community, organized. Crime has been dropping steadily in our area because we are holding those who rent to gang bangers and drug dealers accountable as well as those whose business appears to cater to them. We cannot tell people how to raise their children or run their lives, but we can work the system to exert pressure and we are. The problem is NOT the community, the problem is bad landlords and bad business owners that give shelter to gang bangers and drug dealers. Holding those responsible is what we have been doing for the last few years and will continue to do .. on both sides of Howard ... and it's working .. and it won't take 100 years, more like 5 to 10!
Jennifer Fisher (Editor) August 30, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Hi Ald. Rainey, thanks for commenting. I was able to confirm that the shopping plaza is listed for sale and I have inserted a link as attribution for that fact. As for the quote, I did double check my notes and the second half of the sentence was paraphrased from this statement: "Next to it is a place that goes in and out of business almost on a weekly basis and then there’s a couple of foreclosures going east." Feel free to contact me at jenniferf@patch.com if you'd like to discuss it further.
mij August 31, 2012 at 12:33 PM
So its the store owners fault that people go in and out of stores stealing. When residents know "WHO DID THE CRIME" they need to report them and give names and location.
J C August 31, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Yeah that area has been a haven for crime as long as I can remember....Way before that store ever existed. Who did they blame then ? And I believe it will continue long after that store is gone !
Jennifer Fisher (Editor) August 31, 2012 at 03:23 PM
@mij -- just to clarify, I don't think people are complaining about theft. Police and neighbors say it's drugs and gang activity.
Bernard Garbo August 31, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Ditto Jennifer's comment. Theft is not the issue. Using the store as a club house.
Bernard Garbo August 31, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Believe what you want JC .. but Lincoln Park was once a dangerous neighborhood .. as was Ravenswood, as was Wrigleyville, etc.. Neighborhoods change when neighbors unite and take action. The reasons neighborhoods do NOT change is because of people like YOU who would rather complain about an area than invest time and money to change it .. which is what we're doing.
John Brinkmann August 31, 2012 at 05:19 PM
hey---it's Howard St---nuff said
mij August 31, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Sorry I thought Theft was a crime. Theft also leads to selling what was taken so you can buy drugs.
lucas August 31, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Did anyone ask Alderman Rainey: What about the crime and drug problems in Evanston?

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