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Nuisance Abatement Agreement Used To Close East Side Handy Stop

A convenience store representative from BSRP Enterprises has signed an agreement with the city to close its store on San Antonio’s East Side by Oct. 7.  The city says it initiated an investigation of the store after police responded to more than 600 calls in four years. But some area residents are questioning the city’s process of forcing the business to shut its doors.

Part of the exterior of the Handy Stop at North New Braunfels and Nolan is patched with large planks of plywood.  The most popular items in the store are cigarettes, candy and chips.

The city says in late July, police inspected the store after receiving numerous calls about shootings, knifings, narcotics and prostitution on the property.

In an Aug. 4 nuisance abatement agreement obtained by TPR, the city said the 24- hour Handy Stop could only remain open if it agreed to close from midnight to 8 a.m.  The city order also required the store to add bright lighting and stop selling a number of items including those that might be utilized for the sale of narcotics.

According to SAPD Sgt. Jesse Salame, the owners didn’t want to close at night.  Salame said they’re choosing to shut down so the city won’t sue.

City Councilman Alan Warrick says Handy Stop’s closing is an opportunity to get what he calls “more positive business” in the community.

"In the area in Dignowity Hill, we’ve had a number of great businesses open up that don’t attract the same type of loitering and attract the same folks that allow for an open air drug market," Warrick says.

He says store management has allowed crime to take place on Handy Stop’s grounds.

"They have to police their property, keep their property cleaner. You can’t stop people from hanging out across the street per se, but I think it’s just too comfortable an environment for the wrong types of loitering," he says.

But Rosario Neaves from the San Antonio Housing Authority, or SAHA, says the store manager has made efforts to improve the property.  Neaves says the manager put in fences, lighting, and security cameras at his own expense, following SAHA’s suggestions.

Brian Dillard, president of the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association

Brian Dillard is president of the Neighborhood Association for Dignowity Hill. He says management has tried to prevent loitering and in at least one case the manager was badly hurt.

"The owners of the Handy Shop- they’ve actually made pretty good strides at trying to solve the issue on their own. A guy getting beat up and dragged down the street simply for telling someone to move off your property. That’s an intimidating situation. I mean they’re just as scared as the situation down there as everybody else," Dillard says.

One customer, who doesn’t  want to give his name, says he’s tired of hearing about the frequent shootings and is in favor of the store closing down.

But the idea that the city is moving to close Handy Stop because of crime in the area bothers Kierra Washington, who says she shops at Handy Stop twice a day.

"I don’t think it’s fair cause they’re business owners. So they’re losing money ‘cause they’re having to do something they’re being forced to do," Washington says.

Andrew Sanchez is the manager at Little Caeser’s Pizza, which is a few doors away. He says he will be glad if crime is lessened, but he is also bothered by the forced closure.

Andrew Sanchez, manager at Little Caeser’s Pizza

"You can’t just go around constantly shutting down businesses. I don’t think that would be the answer. In the long run that’s not going to help. They’ll just pick another place to hang out at. It’s not the stores, it’s the criminals, it’s the people who are hanging out there, Sanchez says.

Instead of shutting down businesses to stop crime, Sanchez says the police need to be more proactive.

"They’re only present when something happens. Their whole job is to prevent it from happening," he says.

But Warrick says the police on the East Side are very active.

"We have the shot spotter, gunshot detection software, which allows for quicker response time when gunshots are fired. We have foot patrols along this corridor. Next we have body cameras that are implemented on all officers on the East Side," Warrick says.

Warrick says police have warned two additional stores in his council district on the East Side that crime on their property must be controlled or their businesses will also be closed.

Texas Public Radio made numerous attempts to speak with the business owner for this story.  Although the closure agreement has been signed, Texas Public Radio has learned the store manager may still be talking with the city about options for staying open.