BY CAROLYN P. SMITH
One day after U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin came to East St. Louis and said the nightclubs and liquor stores in East St. Louis are a source of the violent crime in the city, Mayor Alvin L. Parks Jr. on Thursday announced his decision to stop the sale of package liquor at 1 a.m.
The new curfew is slated to go into effect Friday morning.
The 1 a.m. cutoff time for package liquor sales includes gas stations, grocery stores and standalone package liquor and convenience stores, Parks said. Those businesses were all notified Thursday.
And Parks said anyone caught violating the new curfew will face a minimum fine of $400.
Parks said it was not Durbin’s visit that triggered his decision. He said he had been contemplating closing the package liquor stores at an earlier time for a little while because of all of the negative behavior around them and the violent crimes that have been occurring in recent weeks at local gas stations.
“I am concerned about the safety of the citizens and the illicit activities taking place around some of the establishments. I am also concerned about the image that this kind of activity gives the city,” Parks said.
Several people praised the mayor’s decision.
“I think that’s a great idea,” said Elizabeth Tolliver, executive director of the East St. Louis Housing authority. “This will help with the loitering from the people fraternizing the stores. Package liquor stores are in close proximity to our developments,”
The 1 a.m. curfew will make it less likely that people will loiter in the housing projects, Tolliver said.
Ricky Eastern, Precinct 3 committeeman, said the move is something that is needed to help curb crime and cut down on loitering.
“That’s a good thing, especially in the John DeShields and the John Robinson Homes on Bond,” Eastern said. “It will keep a lot of drunks and drug activity out of there. It will stop a lot of hanging out. People will be in the house earlier for safety reasons.”
Eastern took his late father Robert Eastern Sr.’s precinct committeeman seat. “If my father was alive, I know he would be happy to hear this news. I want to continue doing the things he was doing,” Eastern said.
Yolanda Brazier, who is vice president of the John DeShields Resident Council, also was pleased with the news.
“It’s a start,” she said. “We just have to take it from there, now and see what’s next.”
On Wednesday, she had suggested the city ban sales at 10 p.m.
Also on Wednesday, Parks had said he was considering an 11 p.m. ban but instead went with a 1 a.m. ban. Previously, the stores could sell alcohol until 3 a.m.
Parks did not change any hours of operation for nightclubs.
Durbin, D-Springfield, said Wednesday that “although the population of East St. Louis has decreased in recent years, the violent crimes and homicide rates in East St. Louis continue to continue to rank among the nation’s highest. In 2010 alone, there were 31 homicides in East St. Louis and surrounding communities.”
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