On May 2, 2005 Almart Supermarket closed because of illegal activity taking place night and day outside the store. At that time it was questionable whether the store would ever reopen, but it did open back up again with a brand new element of safety giving residents security.
A long-time resident said, "It's nice and quiet."
A statement that this resident would not have made before Almart was shut down. Kimberly Martin has lived in the neighborhood for 23 years and stopped shopping at Almart until Officer Larry Hodges made his presence known.
I asked Kimberly Martin, “Do you feel safe now?” Martin replied by saying, “Now I do, since these guys haven’t been down here asking me for stuff."
Merchants Police Officer Larry Hodges specializes in going into a crime ridden area and turning the community around.
Hodges said, “Lots of kids are coming back. Their parents aren't concerned because we don't have problems that we used to have. A lot of people are thanking us, giving us hugs and want to talk."
Typically by the end of the night the parking lot would be filled with such activity as pit bull fighting, drug dealing and people begging for money, but on this Friday night it’s just a convenient place to grocery shop.”
Hodges tells 23 News, "If there's enough pressure people put on gangs and all the different things then they will leave. If they don't have a place to hangout cause residents are making it hard on them they won't stick around. They want it easy."
Since the illegal activity has stopped, Almart’s owner has stated that he wants to invest money in the store and the west side of Rockford.
Neighbors will come together for a meeting on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. at Alderman Linda McNeely's office on West State Street. The meeting is to discuss any additional concerns residents may have.