For years, Almart Grocery on West State Street has been a well-known spot to buy drugs. In broad daylight customers could go shopping for crack cocaine right in front of the store.
After repeated narcotic activity that dates back to April 2004, the padlocks are on and the police tape is up to let people know this store is closed. Finally, Rockford police and the City Legal Department had enough information and paperwork completed to obtain an emergency injunction.
Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Cacciapaglia says, "You could walk up anytime of the day and watch it. Police were constantly chasing people off the property. The drug problem was blatant, consistent and prevalent."
Neighbors have been keeping a close eye on the activity outside of the store. Pit bull fighting, public drinking and illegal drug sales were all taking place in the parking lot on a daily basis.
Thirteenth Ward Alderman Linda McNeely tells 23 News, "To have a nice store would be perfect, but due to the number of people hanging out in front of store or in the parking lot they have felt uncomfortable and discontinued doing their shopping there."
The City of Rockford Legal Department and Rockford police sat down numerous times with the defendant, Ali Ahmad, his agents and employees to discuss how to alleviate the drug problem.
Cacciapaglia said, "I don't think anybody took us seriously until today."
But some people are skeptical about shutting down the grocery store saying no “store closed” sign can take away the convenience of doing business outside on the streets.
Resident Curtis Brown stated, “I don't think it's going to stop anything it ain't the store it's the neighborhood. There's stuff going on before these people even got here."
The court order bans anybody from being on the property so there should be no reason for people to be standing around. Police will be out patrolling to make sure the rules are being obeyed.
The City of Rockford Legal Department will be seeking a permanent order to close the business for one year. Residents in the area tell 23 News they are concerned about where the next hot spot for drugs will be found. Already, some undisclosed location on Auburn Street seems to be the new drug trafficking location.