Flint, MI– The Flint City Council voted down an ordinance that would have forced convenience stores near residential areas to close at 10 p.m.
The ordinance was introduced to curb loitering and crime at stores close to neighborhoods, but five council members agreed that the real issue has to do with enforcement.
“We need enforcement of what we already have on the books,” said Councilwoman Tonya Burns during the council meeting on March 28. “Because right now, we’re not enforcing.”
The proposed ordinance would have required convenience stores (meaning any retail store selling food, beverages, alcohol, and other general supplies) located within 300 feet of a residential property to close between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“As a result of the nuisance activity connected with convenience stores, the city declares that convenience stores are an industry that requires strict regulation, including their hours of operation,” the ordinance document reads.
In 2020, the council considered a similar ordinance to shut liquor stores down at 9 p.m. for the same reasons. It was postponed for several months and never approved.
Council Vice President Allie Herkenroder said this new ordinance got “mixed reviews” from her constituents in the seventh ward.
While some residents have told her they were “ecstatic” about this potential change, she said others were concerned that crime and loitering wouldn’t stop because there aren’t enough police available to enforce the laws.
“Loitering is still going to happen unless we have some enforcement. So it’s a matter of how do we make sure that this resolution actually has that teeth behind it,” Herkenroder said.
Flint Police Officer William Metcalf also told the council that this ordinance wasn’t the solution to the problem.
“The problem is there’s no enforcement. I work at the police department,” Metcalf said. “When constituents call, you can’t get the police to go do anything. If you get the police to go there, you wouldn’t have the problem in the first place.
Metcalf’s family owns a convenience store he said would be severely impacted by this ordinance. Specifically, he said he calculated that the store would lose 56 hours of operation a week and more than $500,000.
“Don’t take a man’s business from him because you can’t control the crime in the neighborhoods,” he said.
Metcalf said a few weeks ago, a woman came into the store, pulled her pants down, and “crapped in a basket.” Metcalf said he tried to take her to jail, and to the hospital, and nobody would take her.
He also said that another business he owns, the Red Rooster restaurant, was broken into three times in the last two weeks. Metcalf said that he could get to the restaurant quicker from Grand Blanc than Flint police could.
“That’s the enforcement problem. It’s not the stores,” he said. “Do you think the stores want people standing in a parking lot causing problems?”
Council President Eric Mays said that in order to solve these problems, the city needs to work to increase personnel for the police department.
“I mean, you got witnesses, you got camera footage. It’s just the enforcement,” Mays said. “They’ll say that all the cars are tied up and some of that’s true. They’re tied up on shootings and other stuff and that means we’ve got to increase personnel.”
The council voted 0-5 to not approve the ordinance for introduction and first reading. Mays, Burns, Hereknroder, Councilwoman Judy Priestley, and Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter voted no.
Councilwoman Ladel Lewis and Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer were absent from the meeting, and Councilwoman Eva Worthing and Councilman Quincy Murphy had left before the vote, which occurred after midnight.