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Flint considers curbing late-night hours of liquor, corner stores to stem crime

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Rising crime is prompting Flint leaders to consider curtailing late-night hours for liquor stores and convenience shops.

Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley said crime is on the upswing and cites issues including the pandemic and shops that sell alcohol in low-to-moderate income areas, which he calls "multipliers" of violent crime and criminal activity. 

A plan that would shorten hours of some corner stores, Neeley said, could "curb nefarious or duplicitous activity."

"We look at the collateral damage that can be done or the collateral good," Neeley told The Detroit News. "The benefit would be we'd have a more sober-minded community engaging one another in the twilight hours. I think we'll have a better community as a byproduct."

Neeley's comments come days after Flint Councilman Maurice Davis spoke out following the Oct. 6 shooting of an 18-year-old girl outside a city gas station, He said he's been pushing the idea of an ordinance for months that would have certain shops shutter at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. The teen was shot just after 10:30 p.m. while driving on Clio Road. 

The mayor said the plans are conceptual, but he supports them. 

"We're not trying to infringe on anybody's rights, we're just trying to put in measurements of law to be able to safeguard the quality of life and life itself," Neeley said. "It's time that government steps up and takes the bold steps."

Davis could not immediately be reached for comment but in an interview with ABC 12, WJRT-TV, in Flint said if the stores can't control the loitering and do not provide a legitimate service, "then why are you open?"

Michigan State Police Lt. Liz Rich said there have been 43 homicides in the city this year, compared with 37 during the same time last year, and MSP, which partners with city police for coverage, is "aware that crime is up."

Rich said Flint, with MSP,  seized 17 illegal guns on streets on Sept. 28. 

Neeley imposed a curfew in late March that coincided with Flint's state of emergency amid the COVID-19 crisis. 

"We saved lives during that period of time," he said. "One through shutting down spread of the virus and also criminal activity and engagement. We think we had a positive outcome on both ends."

Neeley said during the curfew, which required residents to be off the streets from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., saw a dramatic decline in crime and  fewer calls to violent scenes and homicides. Flint's curfew went into effect April 2 and ran through May 28. 

On April 5, crime in the city was up 1.52% but by May 25 was down nearly 4.84%, according to statistics from Flint's Police Department. 

Property crimes went from down 5.13% year-over-year on April 5 to down 12.54% on May 25. Violent crime was up 14.04% year-over-year on April 5. It remained up, but at 8.46% as of May 25, 2020, figures show. 

"It's unfortunate, but it's back up," he said. "I don't want to prevent activity in the city of Flint. I definitely want to have reasonable measurements. In many affluent areas and suburban areas, you don't have these establishments staying open into the twilight hours of midnight."

Neeley could not say how many businesses in Flint might be affected by such an ordinance. The language must be developed at the council level and brought to the public for feedback before it's brought to his desk.