HOPKINS PARK — Hopkins Park is requiring that two convenience stores close by 8 p.m., citing law enforcement issues.
At least one of the owners is unhappy with the Pembroke Township village’s rule.
In an email, Mayor Mark Hodge said he and the village board want to improve Hopkins Park’s image.
“One of the areas the village is focusing on is loitering at local businesses on the main corridor as you enter the community,” Hodge said.
Pembroke Citgo and SS Friendly Market, the mayor said, are known for creating unsafe conditions that allow the sale of drugs and shootings. This has required the response of the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department, which handles law enforcement in Pembroke Township, he said.
Many residents have complained they will not go to Citgo because loiterers’ cars block them from buying gas, Hodge said. They refuse to move when asked, he said.
The village was recently approached by the Kankakee County state’s attorney’s office about closing both businesses as a result of the law enforcement problems. He noted the county has ordered other businesses to shut down because of repeated police contact.
Last year, the Route 50 Motel, near the Bradley-Bourbonnais Interstate 57 exit, closed after the state’s attorney’s office requested the owner to correct problems in the building. The county said the building suffered structural problems and that its tenants had taxed police agencies for far too long.
As for Hopkins Park, the mayor said, “the state’s attorney’s office will revisit the matter in a few months and closing both businesses could be a reality.”
In an email, State’s Attorney Jim Rowe confirmed he has had discussions with Hodge about filing a nuisance abatement lawsuit against the businesses, asking a court to shut them down.
“We have not yet initiated that process because the mayor wanted an opportunity to pursue other options before taking the drastic step of closing down the businesses,” Rowe said. “We are monitoring the progress and hopeful that the businesses will act responsibly; if the problems continue, we will pursue all options to abate the nuisance. The concern here is public safety, and these issues have persisted at the Citgo gas station for far too long; if the business owners do not take steps to secure their property, we will.”
The process is similar to the Route 50 Motel and gang houses on North Rosewood in Kankakee, Rowe said.
He said the village wanted to have both businesses open much later but that loitering and the potential for violence was too great. The Sheriff’s Department, he said, has attempted to intervene, but once they clear the parking lot, loiterers return.
It is up to the owners to hire effective private security that will work with authorities, Hodge said.
Tevin Stuckey, owner of SS Friendly Market, disagreed with the village’s decision to require an 8 p.m. closure, three hours earlier than before.
“(Hodge) shouldn’t close our business for what happens outside,” Stuckey said. “A lot of shootings happen. We cannot control what happens in the parking lot. We put up ‘no loitering’ signs. We can’t put our lives in danger for telling them to stop. If we tell people to leave and someone takes that the wrong way, they could go after us.”
Stuckey also said the later closure means residents will go to other towns to shop, taking their sales tax dollars with them.
Citgo representatives didn’t return a call for comment.
As recently as April, sheriff’s officials reported a shooting outside SS Friendly Market. A man was hit in the left leg.
Shootings also have been reported over the years at Citgo.
At a recent county meeting, Sheriff Mike Downey said his department has agreements with the two businesses, which are next door.
Under the agreement, if people do not leave from the properties when asked, the businesses can call the department, which will arrest the violators for trespassing, Downey said.
“If we can get a grasp on loitering there, we can expand their hours,” he said.
Pembroke Township, population 2,100, is one of the poorest communities in Illinois. It is in eastern Kankakee County.