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“Loosie” Crackdown Eyed

by Melissa Bailey | Apr 7, 2008 11:15 am

(10) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: City Hall

IMG_0260.JPGA sleepy-eyed man in a plaid shirt held out two dollars: “Four loosies,” he mumbled.

“No loosies,” came the reply from the clerk, eying a reporter nearby.

“No loosies today,” the clerk repeated a few minutes later, as customers streamed in and out of this Congress Avenue corner store late one rainy morning.

The sale of loosies — unpackaged cigarettes without a health warning — is prohibited by state law. In some New Haven corner stores, it happens anyway.

A group of aldermen wants to crack down on loosie sales as part of a wider effort to tackle quality of life issues near convenience stores.

IMG_7474.JPGOne of those aldermen, Beaver Hill’s Moti Sandman, said corner stores have become a threat in his part of town.

On a recent walk down Whalley Avenue past a late-night corner store, he found brown-bagged drinking, drug deals and public urination. The sale of drug paraphernalia and loosies feeds that behavior, he said.

“We’re seeing that there’s a hand-in-hand problem that when you have loosies being sold, you have kids hanging out and trouble happening,” Sandman said.

“Corner stores are becoming a safe haven, a time out area for criminals,” agreed Officer Shafiq Abdussabur, who heads the CTRIBAT program for urban youth. The all-night hangouts help lure young kids into drugs and crime, he said.

By state law, smokes must be sold in unopened packs with the required health warning. Enforcement lies with the state Commissioner of Revenue Services. Alleged violators are brought for a hearing before the commissioner, who may apply a civil penalty or revoke a store’s license. Penalties range from $50 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for a third or subsequent offense.

Getting Loosie On The Aldermanic Floor

No local law governs loosie sales. In an ordinance amendment to be communicated to the Board of Aldermen Monday night, Sandman and three alders call for creating a local law that would give more teeth to loosie enforcement, prohibiting loosie sales and increasing fines beyond state penalties.

The proposal would also “maximize the fines on items that may be used as drug paraphernalia,” such as glass pipes used for crack.

A third prong of their corner store plan would require any new convenience store to seek zoning permission to stay open after 11 p.m. The bill is co-sponsored by Aldermen Roland Lemar, Alex Rhodeen and Greg Morehead.

shafiq%2010.jpgAbdussabur (pictured) said CTRIBAT, a hard-hitting youth program that steers at-risk kids away of trouble, has been looking into a similar plan to tackle those the same issues.

He had a few ideas to add to aldermen’s proposal, which is written in brief with the intent to be fleshed out through the public hearing process.

Abdussabur is on board with restricting convenience stores to being open only from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. As evidence for why this would work, he pointed to a corner store at Bassett and Dixwell that would be hopping late into the night. Folks would stop by for a Philly blunt at 2 a.m., and sometimes guns went off.

The store was recently given an 11 p.m. curfew. Since then, he said robberies and shootings on that corner have dropped.

Abdussabur said stores need to be held accountable for passively supporting drug use. Drug paraphernalia, like pre-packaged steel wool pads and glass vials used for rose stems, need to be banned. He also supports banning the sale of toy guns and gun-like cigarette lighters, and requiring stores to improve outside lighting and post a 24-hour phone number out front.

He suggested a violation of $100 per banned item sold, enforceable not only by police but by City Hall’s Livable City Initiative.

Cracking down on corner stores is one attainable way to keep kids away from negative environments that lead to gun violence, he said.

“We can’t sue the gun manufacturers,” he said, but “these are things that we can change. Little small things like this can make a difference in these communities.”

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Comments

posted by: on whalley on April 7, 2008  11:58am

I’m going to start printing the surgeon generals warning on the cigarettes themselves to get around this. Because the alcohol warning is on each can/bottle the same stores can sell individual cans so once the warning gets on each cigarette it’ll be legit.

Somehow I don’t think stopping the sale of individual cigarettes matters much. It’d probably accomplish a more significant change if they stopped selling pint of liquor and individual bottles of beer from 8.5oz to 64 oz. jugs. Then what of the guys who chug mouthwash? Ban the sale of travel size Listerine?

This is just as stupid as banning the sale of spray paint to minors.

I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I don’t even use spray paint. I find airbrushes to be much better for fine detail. And banning the sale of any of these things is not a solution. If it were then there wouldn’t be any drug problems. After all the sale of them is banned.

posted by: lookout on April 7, 2008  12:30pm

Look out rubber match they are coming for you.

posted by: James on April 7, 2008  12:54pm

Just tell me where a corporate-looking white guy can buy a loosie in this town. I quite years ago, but on occasion I feel like having a smoke. I’d rather buy one or two rather than bumming or buying a whole pack.  Because if I buy the pack I’ll smoke it.  Loosies are GOOD for my health.  But whenever I ask for a loosie, I get the “you’re a cop” look. 

I agree that going after the loosies is a misguided effort.  But I wholeheartedly support Moti and anybody else in this town who tries to address some of these quality of life issues.  People seem to look the other way on a lot of this crap, and as an outsider I can tell you that this is not normal and it makes New Haven look bad.  I remember on my third or forth day of work heading back from the office I passed a bus stop where a guy was taking a leak on a lamppost. With no look or shame or compunction.  In the middle of rush-hour traffic.  This was amongst my first tip-offs that this was not going to be a pleasant place to live.

I support you, Moti. If you think that loosies are the problem, then I’ll stand behind you.  But I would urge you to rethink where it is you apply your considerable but not limitless resources.

posted by: What The on April 7, 2008  1:07pm

These guys have nothing better to do? How about first focusing on reducing my taxes. Then improving the public education system. Finally, encourage economic development in order to develop more job opportunities. They can’t solve these problems, so they are going after the loosie purchasers. I guess that means they will hire more LCI staff to enforce this sillyness.

posted by: Hartford Johnson on April 7, 2008  1:46pm

Of course, sale of individual cigarettes doesn’t matter much.  Government micro-manages our lives—get rid of them!

posted by: Gary Doyens on April 7, 2008  1:48pm

As often happens, the solution is overly broad for the problem. Many of the isssues sited by Sandman could be addressed by curtailing the hours these corner stores can operate. The closing time should be 10p, not 11p and asking asking the police and the DOR to enforce the existing laws on public drunkeness, urinating, dealing drugs and selling loosies.

You could also limit the sale of alcohol by time. For instance, you can’t buy beer in the grocery store after 9p I think.

LCI doesn’t need more power or to benefit from mission creep. It will inevitably lead to more employees and expense, or other problems they’re supposed to address will be delayed.

posted by: Bill Saunders on April 7, 2008  1:58pm

I really do not understand this persistent attempt at over-regulation by the aldermanic chamber.  These are poor public policy decisions, as there are already State Laws on the books to deal with these particular issues.  You know Aldermen, if a business is selling loosies, go ahead and report it to the State Commissioner, and have the offender go through the process that is already in place.

posted by: Gary Doyens on April 7, 2008  2:37pm

As often happens, the solution is overly broad for the problem. Many of the isssues sited by Sandman could be addressed by curtailing the hours these corner stores can operate. The closing time should be 10p, not 11p and asking asking the police and the DOR to enforce the existing laws on public drunkeness, urinating, dealing drugs and selling loosies.

You could also limit the sale of alcohol by time. For instance, you can’t buy beer in the grocery store after 9p I think.

LCI doesn’t need more power or to benefit from mission creep. It will inevitably lead to more employees and expense, or other problems they’re supposed to address will be delayed.

posted by: walt bradley on April 7, 2008  5:37pm

Hell, let’s just make grape soda and Georgia hots illegal too.  We know who’s being targeted here, and it ain’t us white guys.  How about making these fine retailers CLEANING their stores and treating their customers, regardless of who they are, with respect.
I’m assuming the Aldermen have conquered poverty, crime and what to do with RT 34 since they’ve got time to tackle this issue. 
Moti, nice to see you’ve got an issue of your own and not rubber stamping hizzoner,maybe now find a way to make my neighborhood safe enough for my girlfriend to walk our dog alone at night.  Or better yet, level that god ugly “Beaver Hills Shopping Mall”, even beavers are embarrased they’re name is attached to it.

posted by: Stephen H on April 8, 2008  11:21am

It wouldn’t matter if the stopped selling loosies.  The crakheads and wine-o’s would just harrass regular folks like myself who are smokers into giving them a cigarette or loose change.

Whenever I was downtown (while living in NH) I was harrased at least 2-5 times in a short amount of time for money or cigarettes. 

If they stop the sale of them at the ghetto store the bacteria of society will just flock to the green or hang out in front of a fancy wine shop and harass folks into giving them a smoke or a can of beer out of their case.

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