Tuesday, November 28

Riviera Beach police work to reduce crime near convenience stores

Convenience stores are part of virtually every community. In some areas, police said they can become areas of disrepair or avenues of crime. Officials in Riviera Beach said it’s time to crack down on the problems.

Riviera Beach Police Chief Michael Coleman said they held Wednesday’s “convenience store workshop,” to take a store-by-store look at the issues happening on the streets of Riviera Beach.

Coleman met WPTV near two convenience stores along President Barack Obama Highway. One store had more than 2,000 calls to police in the past three years while the other had more than 600.

“There is a problem,” Coleman said. “A homicide happened at this store about five to six months ago. We have shootings, drug deals, fights on the properties, consuming in public, intoxicated individuals.”

He explained what he meant when he said it’s time to crack down on convenience stores.

“Hold them accountable, bring them into compliance, and crack down to make sure they are providing quality service to our community,” Coleman said.

Just moments into the meeting, store owners shared the toll they feel day in and day out.

“My million dollar question is how many arrests were there? Two-thousand calls, how many arrests?” one man asked.

Now it’s about teeing up expectations convenience stores must meet.

“I’ve been in every store in the city,” Coleman said. “We are still selling paraphernalia that people call art, but they are no more than crack pipes.”

Now, officials with the city said they’re combating problems through code compliance, cracking down on loitering and encouraging the reporting of crime.

“Often those convenience stores can be the sight of disrepair, code enforcement violation, criminal activity, police responses,” Clarence Sirmons, director of development services for Riviera Beach, said. “We are in the middle of a campaign called ‘Reimagine Riviera,’ and our convenience stores are local businesses that are part of that.”

The two-way street between owners and officials was appreciated by some convenience store owners after Wednesday’s meeting.

“I feel safe, much better than before, much better than before,” Mohammed Hossain, a convenience store owner, said.

“It’s good because more safety for us, for our customers who come in, the neighborhood,” Zyad Darwish, another store owner, said.

Coleman described the give-and-take this will require.

“We want to help them get to a good place, where they want to be, so they can increase their revenue,” Coleman said. “I want crime to be reduced, so we can work together to accomplish both of those objectives.”

Coleman said there will be a 60-day grace period for the convenience stores to get into compliance. He also said they will send out a team for free for evaluation of what needs to be changed to get up to code.

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