EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) — Between disputes over foreign policy or the national budget, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is tackling a more local issue: operating hours for nightclubs and liquor stores in East St. Louis.
The Illinois Democrat wants the businesses to close earlier, which he says would improve public safety in the struggling river city. Durbin on Tuesday publicly challenged East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks Jr. to “do your part” in making the streets safer.
And in a column he wrote for Sunday’s Belleville News-Democrat, Durbin was even more pointed.
“Mayor Parks says he cannot afford to lose the $140,000 in fees these clubs pay to the city each year,” Durbin wrote. “I have a question for Mayor Parks: Eight people were shot down at the clubs in the last six months and your city leads the nation in murder and violent crime. Is $140,000 in fees worth that?”
The decaying city of about 27,000 people is known for its poverty and crime. Its murder rate is one of the highest in the nation.
East St. Louis once lost its city hall because it couldn’t come up with the money to pay a lawsuit judgment. The city’s police chief just resigned, for a second time, and faces up to 15 years in prison after a federal sting caught him stealing video games.
Durbin, who was born in East St. Louis, wants clubs to close at 11 p.m. on weeknights and 1 a.m. on weekends. The senator said they also should be required to step up their security.
He ran down a list of crimes that he attributes to the nightclub scene: two men shot while walking home from a club, a man shot to death after a large club fight, three people shot at another nightspot, and a man shot by police outside a club when he refused to drop a weapon.
The mayor did not return calls from The Associated Press on Monday. In a letter to Durbin’s office last week, Parks said nightclubs and liquor stores are important businesses.
“The City is not looking to abolish one of the key industries of the East St. Louis economy,” Parks wrote. “WE WON’T DO IT!”
The mayor called on Durbin to help get more federal money to reimburse the city’s police department for work at the local housing authority and to let the authority hire police officers as security guards.
Durbin said he’s doing his part by obtaining $400,000 for the housing authority to improve security and by asking federal law enforcement to devote more attention to investigating crime in East St. Louis.
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