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City says local market is contributing to crime rates

READ MORE: City says local market is contributing to crime rate
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There is some controversy surrounding a Wilmington non-profit, and nearby convenience store. The city says Village Stop and Shop Market is contributing to the high crime rate in the area by selling alcohol and cigarettes. They say the crime is so bad, it violates a state statute. The owner of the store has leased the property for nearly 2 decades. The city says it is time for it to go. After owning the Village Stop and Shop Market on Vance Street for eighteen years, Muhammad Khalil is in a tough place. “Every business is responsible for what goes on inside his business, not what goes on outside," said Khalil. The city of Wilmington wants Khalil to relocate his business, claiming the sale of alcohol and cigarettes is upping the crime rate in the area. Lynn Coleman, Assistant City Attorney said, "The city is primarily concerned with the excessive crime that is going on in the parking lot." The Wilmington Police Department recently sent a letter to the Vance Street businesses saying, "the community has complained this area is a possible location for illegal activities." According to the city, the numbers back that up. So far this year, there have been 77 calls to the police from both the market and First Fruit Ministries. 18 of which were drug related. The owner of the Village Stop and Shop said he lets his customers come and use the phone if they see a crime or altercation in the neighborhood. “If he sees a crime, he's going to call, but guess what I'm getting blamed for that," said Khalil. "We really applaud those efforts, and Mr. Khalil and his store for trying to be a good neighbor," said Coleman, If the store has to move, people who live nearby say they will be ones who will suffer the most. Many have no transportation to get to another grocery store. Local resident, Julie Cottle said, "They need a store here, people have to eat, people have to be able to walk somewhere when they don't have money." "They depended on coming up here when they couldn't get to the bigger stores, all the way down to Food Lion, when they didn't have transportation they knew they could come to Mike’s," said local resident, Linda Yopp. Fresh Fruits Ministries and the city have not told Khalil when he needs to be out, but he said he needs more than just sixty days to relocate a store of his size.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.

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Stinkin' Fruit

Why is Fruit Ministeries whining to the City anyways? What does the City have to do with it? Sounds like stinkin' fruit to me...maybe the City should rethink their position on shutting down legitimate businesses. If Fruit Ministeries doesn't want that business operating any longer in their building just don't renew the lease...Surely, they have a lease. Maybe they could open up their own convenience store...and sell only what they feel the surrounding neighborhood should buy which would not include cigarettes or alcohol. Why are Fruit Ministeries running to the City for help with this? Alcohol and cigarettes are legal and can be purchased in most grocery/convenient stores. It's just plain silly to think that this is the reason for the crime in the area. It just makes me want to laugh but at the same time it makes me worry....worry that the City thinks it should be involved in this type of situation...that the City doesn't have a better reason for wanting the business to close....the City hasn't looked at the situation from all sides or offered solutions to the problems in the area. Why is the City's attorneys office saying anything about this? Sounds like Vance Street isn't being patrolled...looks like the police need to patrol the parking lot and protect the business owner not make the business owner move. I would ask the following questions: Will shutting down the business solve the problem? What type of business will be allowed to reopen? and Who's going to make that decision, the City? Will the building set vacant? How long would it be allowed to be vacant? which opens up another type of crime issue altogether. What do other convenience stores do to prevent loitering, etc? The City is worried about excessive crime in the parking lot...where's the police. Does he need to place large signs up stating what will happen if you hang out there? No loitering, no solicitation...or you will go to jail... Or have we just given up on that neighborhood....aren't those people entitled to proper Police protection or is that just for those folks east of College Road. How can the City even think about annexing Monkey Junction when they can't even solve a simple parking lot loitering problem.

Problems

I have lived out here in LLP several times in my life. Once when I was a young child, then as young married and then now as a senior citizen. I have always loved this little park. But things have now changed. I have read the other comments and the phrase that has been used (the residents of long leaf park) does NOT speak for the majority that live here. The Village Shop and Stop is NOT the only store close to the residents. The Rite-Aid at the other end of Rutledge Drive (within walking distance) has a Food Mart with the same items that are sold at the Shop and Stop is also available to the residence. The only difference is they DO NOT allow loitering or any other illegal activities to occur on the property, is very well lit and WPD is very visible there. As far as First Fruit Ministries goes, they have NEVER been to my door to assist me in any way. I am a senior citizen and at times need food to get me through the month, have serious health problems and unable to get up there at any time for assistance. First Fruit has NEVER knocked on my door for any reason. I simply assumed that I did not fit into their criteria for assistace (drug user, prostitution and/or alcohol related problems or being homeless). Yet they expect some of the really good residence to "live with" problems they have created or taken any responsibility for.

If the man has been in

If the man has been in business here for 18 years and it has just become a high crime area this year, then it can hardly be blamed on his store. Cigarettes and alcohol don't turn people into criminals. How many of the people out in this area are somehow connected to the shelter? And just like public housing units, the drug dealers will patronize homeless shelters because for some reason, some of the residents can't afford to rent a place to live but they can afford illegal drugs. In a previous city where I lived, there were several all night convenience stores that had the same issues, although there were actually people having sex on the hood of the cars in the lot, shooting guns, openly drinking and doing drugs, coming inside and threatening the clerks. They would call the city police and the police would arrive, inform the clerk on duty that they couldn't do anything, because it was private property, but threaten to lock up the clerk (usually female) unless she went out and cleared the parking lot. After several of these incidents, the store owners were approached by a cop who offered to solve his problem by getting his coworkers to act as security guards for $10.00 per hour while off duty. The owner agreed and hired them. The first night that an incident took place, the "security guard" simply called the police and they came and threatened to arrest anyone still in the parking lot after 2 minutes. The store owners, who owned several locations in town, informed the mayor of the town that he would be sitting there the next night with a chartered bus and would load the perpetrators in it with the promise of a party and deposit them on the mayor's front lawn unless this issue was resolved. The next night, the clerk was able to call the police and have the lot cleared, and after appearances by the stores owners in front of the city council, city manager, heads of the police dept., etc, the place is nothing but peace and quiet due to the fact that an ON duty officer sits there when not on patrol. The owner of this store is doing his job. When there is an issue, he is calling the police. Maybe the city is trying to get some extra pay for their off duty cops. What is to stop the ministry from renting the store to another store, or maybe a bar or something when this store moves out? As long as it does not conflict with the zoning for that area, then the city could not stop it. There is more to this story and additional reasoning behind it besides what the city is telling everyone. The owner needs to go outside of Wilmington, to Raleigh or another large city, and hire a lawyer. And if they try to evict him, sue them into oblivion.

Village Stop & Shop

I've resided as a Resident here in Long Leaf Park for More than 6 years. I would recommend WWAY "digging deeper" into this story, getting at the truth of the matter. Mike Khalil has Done everything asked,over and beyond, Legally, as a Business owner has to Do. Installing live Cameras etc, Provides Security. Those "calls" WWAY reported as "Stats", for the most part, was the Mike Khalil himself, making the majority of the calls to get Criminals, or Riff-Raff off the street and Parking Area around the Store/Plaza. Being in Business in the same Store Front, for 18 years, was ok, until First Fruit Minister's came into the Picture roughly over 3 years ago. Then Long Leaf Parks "Problem" with Homeless People was becoming a REAL Problem, being provided/Sanctioned by First Fruit Ministries Church Located on either side of the Store in question. First Fruit Ministries were allowing Homeless people to "Camp" around the backside of the Store and also the Adjoining Church. Or sleep in vehicles in the Parking Lot. Back on Topic, Many Elderly, Disabled,wheelchair bound, or housewives with Husbands at work, Have no access to quick transportation, where they can "quickly",for example, go to get a Carton of Milk, or Cereal for their Kids,are not able to travel 2 miles down the road to Food Lion,in a quick and timely matter, as the 201 Wave Transit bus runs only every 60 minutes, In Addition, the City of Wilmington Moved the WAVE Transit Bus Route out onto Carolina beach road. That Makes things very difficult for disabled, or blind people, such as My wife to travel outside the neighborhood to get soda pop or something She quickly needs for dinner if I'm not here. Yes, Mike Khalil sells beer, mostly to the Hispanic area Residents, whom, most Walk to the store, NOT drinking and driving on our area roads, instead, again, people WALK to the store instead of driving 2 miles away... Which would you rather have? Honestly. It seems to Me, that First Fruit Ministries has a Bible-Thumping Personal vendetta against the Store Owner, Mike Khalil, and beer and Tobacco Products. Akin to waging His own Personal War of Prohibition in our Neighborhood. As for the comments by the City, If this store is contributing so much to crime, if this is even remotely the Truth,The City of Wilmington would be closing Convenience Stores around Ann/Orange street area, Red Cross Street, Dawson street area,Castle Street and the Bars downtown that sell Tobacco and Beer to College students every weekend,taking up valuable Police resources, Due to the "crime" that arises in these areas because of Beer/wine/Tobacco Products sold out of these other establishments? Do you not find this situation outrageous, FORCING the Closure of a Licensed & LEGAL Business, Whom serves Our Elderly, Disabled, and Low-income residents, that SUPPORT the store owner, hearing that the ONLY complaint from OUR Community comes from a Pastor of a Church that doesn't reside here in OUR Community? Because the Establishment sells Tobacco and Beer Products Licensed and Legally? If you stop and think about this, It's over One Mans MORALS more than the Legality that forces Wilmington to do a Pastors Bidding, and close a business that serves the Community. As for the Crime, yes, Long Leaf Park, has seen it's Share of Crime, due to CRACK Cocaine, NOT beer and Tobacco Products. Citizens here with the WPD, have taken a Proactive approach in the past 8 months, and as a result, much of our "loitering", drug dealing, Prostitution are more the "exception", than rather a everyday occurrence it once was. I question City of Wilmington's approach in this matter, as It leads down a Slippery Slope that other Business owners may face one Day.. Take note other convenience Store Owners, you may be next.

village stop and shop/first fruit ministries

First,I want to express my concern and love for Mike,his employees,family and customers. It truly seems Mike is getting a bum deal. To be a law abiding citizen(store)and be blamed for the neighborhood crime is just ridiculous. Mike has been a friend and confidant to a good amount of people that enter his store every day.I met mike, at his store, around ten years ago when i was dating a man living in long leaf park. Since then, I have gotten to know Mike and his staff very well.He is genuinely concerned about the people in the area.I have known Mike to take food,O T C medicine and personal hygiene products to the elderly in the Long Leaf park community,who could not get those items otherwise.The city of Wilmington would want me to believe that the First Fruit Ministries has no fault in the increase in crime in this neighborhood. I disagree. Lets just think about this for a minute-the majority of residents First Fruit ministries houses are drug addicts and convicted felons/prostitutes,and in light of the boys and girls club directly across the street,possibly sex offenders.In conclusion,I do not believe village stop and shop and the long standing residents should be prosecuted for the numerous violations First Fruit Ministries has accumulated.

Unfortunate

I grew up in this neighborhood. After hard work and extended education, I now live in a different environment. I return occasionally to see family/friends and cannot believe the changes in this area. I feel that there are a lot of people in this area that feel hopeless, lost and perhaps dealing with addiction. In days long ago I would walk alone on any of the streets in this area, but now these streets seems cold and unfamiliar. This neighborhood was once a quiet, low-to-middle income area where a lot of families lived. This is now replaced with much the contrary. I do not feel the neighborhood convenient store is to blame for the increased crime. It is simply providing a service. The store owner is a brave man to operate a business in this neighborhood. Good Luck Mr. Kahlil.

Lol! When did cigarette use

Lol! When did cigarette use start causing violent crimes?

This man is running a

This man is running a legitimate business. Many of his customers don't have transportation to go to other stores. If there is crime going on around his place of business, is it not up to the police to take care of that problem?

BEWARE

We should hear all the facts, about this case, maybe there not being reported,but i know if there basing their facts on, closing a store on the sale of alcohol an cigarettes,,,,,, raising crime,sounds like some has a law suite against the city ,,,,,,,,,, What is the constitution? ?????,,,,,,,,,,watch out people

Village Stop and Shop

The reason the convenience store has to move instead of First Fruits Ministry is simple. The Ministry owns the building. They had a lease on the store to allow Mike to operate. I've known Mike for years. He is a good man who is just trying to provide for his family. When I went in there at night, Mike would always walk me to the front door and watch to make sure I got into my car safely. I feel really bad for him.

Alcohol and cigerettes?

Not that I am at all FOR any of these high crime areas, but saying that alcohol and cigarette sales ups the crime rate??? That's similar to saying that guns kill people, when it's the people that kill people. Shut it down, turn off the lights and give an even better place to perform their drug transactions, that'll fix the whole darned thing!!! Let's not consider that it is a "known" and "proven " hot-spot for crime. I mean....don't think of putting up survelliance cameras, undercover agents and stake outs to apprehend the small-time thugs. Nah...too easy. I support the Wilmington Police 100%, but sometimes I wonder where they get their strategy and problem solving advice for downtown crime resolution. Could it be Mayor Saffo?

I being A Long Leaf Park

I being A Long Leaf Park resident for the better part of my life. I have resided here for over 18 years. I also grew up out here in this area as a child, while visiting friends i was attending school with. I have known mike, the store manager and owner for the best part of my life. He is a really good guy and he does his part of keeping the crime and rude people away from his store. I can NOT give the credit to the fresh fruit ministery. They have not done NOTHING to help keep the area clean. I know for a fact, that they have fed into the crime in the area. They have and still are allowing people to park in the parking lot and allow them to sleep in the cars,trucks and vans in the parking lot. These same people has allowed people to sleep outside in tents and in blankets behind the same building and behind the church next door to this building. Mike the convient store manager and owner is not allowing these things to take place. But, yet the one man that is trying to keep the people for lottering the parking lot, calls the cops when he sees things going wrong. He is the one that is getting the blame. These crimes were NOT happening when the convient store was in this building alone. Theses crimes did NOT start taking place till, Fresh Fruit was placed here. The so called Pastor allowing these people to sleep in their cars, sleep in the parking lot or behind the church beside the building. This is when the crimes started. Why blame the innocent party and allow the party that began all this remain safe and upholding the wrong. Us the people that lives in the neighborhood are standing up and standing for the convient store to remain in place and asking for the city counsel to listen to us. We the residents should know when and why the crimes had started in this area. We the people would like to see fresh fruit ministery be moved. The city of wilmington police department will then see and realize the store is not the problem. Fresh Fruit and the people that runs Fresh Fruit is the problem. Plus what kind of pastor will stand up and tell these people that are staying in his homeless shelter, If they speak on camera and to the news people. They will have to find another place to lay there heads down at. What kind of Pastor is this? It is not a Pastor of the LORD GOD. Then every one wants to know why there are less people in church these days and time. Having a pastor such as this. You dont have to be in church to believe in and learn the words of God. The pastor of Fresh Fruit ministery is one reason people has decided to stay home and believe and live for the LORD. Instead, of going to a place/home of the lord. The pastor is not setting a GOOD ROLE MODEL. I WILL STAND and FIGHT to keep the VILLAGE STOP AND SHOP where it is at. These are only my thoughts and opinions and i do have ALOT more to say. but, just so much of my opinion is needed at this point and time. Please tell us your thoughts opinions and feelings. We all still have the right of free speech and this is what the VILLAGE STOP AND SHOP needs right now. We the people DO NOT NEED A WONNA BE PASTOR to threaten us the people and take our free speech rights away from us. A Pastor that is a true Pastor to spread and speak the word of our GOD. Would NOT communicate a threat to GODS people and take away there right to free speech...

Village stop and shop

I feel this story is a very sad and very wrongful on first fruit ministery. What kind of church and pastor does this group have to representing them?

scapegoat

This guy seems to be getting blamed for the fact that there is apparently a high number of criminals living in the area. There is a Kangaroo convenience store right next to my house. They sell cigs and booze, too. Yet strangely enough, there doesn't seem to be a problem with criminals here.

Yeah, it's such a nice neighborhood

If it wasn't for this mean ol' store, it would be just like Sesame Street around there, right? Get real, people! This is no different than Calypso Louie's thugs marching in and destroying convenience stores in Oakland because they sold alcohol. The man is operating a licensed business, selling legal products. Obviously, if there was no demand for his goods and services in that area, he would have moved on years ago. Attack the root cause of the problem and leave this businessman alone!

Root cause............

is the store and First Fruit Ministries. I can go to the Kangaroo on 17th Street and not have to deal with any of the type of people you do at the Vance st store. They sell beer and cigarettes but do not allow the illegal activities to take place on their property. CVS and Rite Aid up the street sell beer and cigarettes also, but don't have the same issues. You tell me why only the Village Stop and Shop does??

You're making

a big issue out of nothing. After January 20, small businesses like this one will be taxed out of existence to fund the new entitlement programs being proposed. On a serious note, perhaps someone should look at the Ministry's books to determine how much revenue this business generates through rent payments to the ministry. If I read correctly, the current owner has been at this site for 20 years or so. Could this be a ploy to force a revision in the lease?

No, the root cause is...

...totally worthless people that we, as a society, refuse to deal with. And just like cockroaches, they like to congregate out of the general view. The stores on 17th Street are much too visible! Every single one of the shelters in this town is located in an area where you'd be smart to carry a .45 and wear a Kevlar vest. Trust me, selling cigarettes and alcohol is not what is making these people what they are. The guy is simply trying to run a business. He's not responsible for the quality of his clientel. In the video he is even complimented for his efforts to stop the crime. In fact, he's doing you a service by keeping the riff-raff from heading over to Kangaroo!