We, the undersigned, are residents of Old Town, Alexandria. We live in the neighborhood surrounding the convenience store at 809 Pendleton Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314. We hereby petition City Council to have the relevant City departments institute the necessary proceedings to revoke the business license and all other City permits and licenses, and permanently close the store due to the nefarious activities it is bringing into the neighborhood.
The public record and the experience of neighbors clearly establish that the store has become a public nuisance, as well as a locus of significant criminal activity. We believe its operation threatens the public health, safety and morals of the citizens of Alexandria, and undermines the substantial investment of time, money, and other resources that the City, its citizens, and members of the business community have made in the northwest Old Town area.
The convenience store is a locus of criminal activity. On Thursday, August 9, 2012, police raided the store and adjacent residence and discovered a cache of stolen goods. The raid and arrests have been well-documented in the press. According to the press reports, the store was allegedly dealing in stolen property from break-ins and other burglaries occurring in Rosemont and Old Town. Press reports since the raid indicate that store was also allegedly engaging in illegal trafficking of Electronic Benefit Transfer cards and therefore was removed from Virginia’s food stamp program. Statements the police and neighbors made to the press during the August 9 raid are telling:
"People would either steal from cars or property, bring the property here to this location and give them money for the stolen items," says Dep. Chief Cleveland Spruill of the Alexandria Police Department.
Neighbor Corinne Marlowe says “the store police raided has been a nuisance since it opened, but [I] had no idea it may have been at the center of a criminal enterprise.”
In addition to being a front for stolen property, the store appears to facilitate drug use and sales. The store sells paraphernalia such as rolling papers, incense, “blunts,” pipes, and bongs. Neighbors have witnessed “meetings” that appear to be drug transactions occurring right outside the store. The City and neighbors worked hard against the establishment of an open-air drug market near James Bland – as well as the closure of the nearby Day Labor Agency - it would be a shame to see those efforts thwarted and a drug market and public nuisance established only blocks away.
Besides promoting drug use and theft, the store has been a nuisance in many other ways as well. Press reports indicate that the Fire Marshall recently shut down the store for code violations. Neighbors have also witnessed public urination on the side of the building, and excessive noise and trash accumulation around the store.
The situation is not only tragic, it’s ironic. When the store opened, it advertised itself as an organic grocery store. The ruse was so convincing, the operator persuaded Planning & Zoning to grandfather the store and regulate it as a “grocery” rather than a “convenience” store, which would have required a more demanding Special Use Permit. Only after obtaining the necessary City approvals did the owner’s intentions become clear – the store applied for and received an ABC license, and then it began selling the drug paraphernalia, which subsequently escalated to fencing stolen property and trafficking in stolen food stamps. The fact that the store keeps a few rotten bananas and other spoiled fruit around does not negate the owner’s intent to operate a very, very different business – a criminal enterprise, in fact. The owner’s actions clearly demonstrate, in our minds, an absence of any concern for the health, safety, and welfare of the community and its system of laws.
Accordingly, we petition City Council to revoke the business license and all other City permits and licenses, and permanently close the store.