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City Goes After Problem Businesses

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It's not the Aons and Boeings of the world, but some of the beeper stores and the liquor and tobacco outlets city officials say are crime magnets. Phil Rogers reports.

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has begun targeting problem neighborhood businesses, focusing on liquor and convenience stores which inspectors contend cater to criminal activity.

"These liquor stores are not a business," Emanuel said. "They’re a haven for gang bangers and drug dealers."

On Monday, the city released a list of 37 targeted businesses, ranging from liquor stores and service stations, to a pair of McDonald's and a Subway restaurant. Some had health code violations. Others were alleged to have been selling drug paraphernalia or untaxed cigarettes.

All have been put on notice that they are subject to increased inspections, and that one more violation could land them in court.

"It’s just a really slow process," lamented Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), who said she welcomed the new program. "There are, in my ward, at least four different businesses we’re targeting."

Many of the businesses targeted by the city took exception with their new found notoriety. At the Citgo convenience store near 59th and Ashland, manager Ali Salem said his establishment did not sell drug paraphernalia, as the city claims. He questioned why the mayor isn’t going after bad customers, not businesses.

"Makes us look bad," Salem said. "Because we cannot control them."

In another initiative, the administration said it would begin boarding up or tearing down vacant buildings "where gang bangers are hanging out, and drug dealers are hanging out."

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