8News Investigates: The Blight of Blackwell - 8NEWS - WRIC | News Where You Live

8News Investigates: The Blight of Blackwell

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Drug needles were found behind an abandoned boarded up home on Albany Avenue. Drug needles were found behind an abandoned boarded up home on Albany Avenue.
RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) - Drug needles, tires sitting in the street, boarded up and abandoned trash bags hanging all over a convenience store fence along Albany Avenue prompted city residents to call 8News. They are sick of the blight in Blackwell.

Richmond City Councilwoman Reva Trammell believes when business owners don't maintain their property, it invites criminals.

"These business owners need to be accountable especially these convenience stores," she says. "It's the broken window theory. When you see trash and filth what does it say. It says 'come on over we don't care.'"

With the Councilwoman, 8News Investigative Reporter Kerri O'Brien confronted the area businesses. First she asked the tire shop on the corner about tires in the street.

The store owner says they have been sitting there for weeks. No one from the city has picked them up and clearly the business owner has no intention of lending a hand and removing them.

"This is the limit of our property," he says. "Anything there is not our property."

Next we walk into a 301 Express convenience store demanding to know why trash bags are hanging around the place.

O'Brien: "Why do you have trash hanging on the fence?" Manager:  "Where's the trash?" O'Brien: '"There are several bags just hanging on the fence."  Manager:  "This is probably, I don't know many times we fixed the fence before but it has been so many times."

The store manager says people in the community hang around the place, dump their trash there and break the store's fence.

Manager: "Whoever is bringing the fence down, leaves the trash." O'Brien: "So it's not you?" Manager: "No, we clean our parking lot every single day."

Customers aren't buying that. One argues that it's the store's responsibility to maintain their property.

"Your first impression is always your last," he says.

When 8News returned to the store a few days after our first visit, we notice a man picking up to bags of trash.  But it wasn't a convenience store worker cleaning up as we were told they do daily. Instead, concerned neighbors took it upon themselves to hire this man to pick up the mess.

Sector Lt. Tim Wyatt says Richmond Police are very well aware of the problems around this store.

"We have had a total of 53 calls for service to that one business," he says. "Of those 53, 22 were initiated by officers who work at first precinct."

We even spotted an officer parked in front of it Tuesday.

But the police can't force the business to clean up or tell people hanging around to move along.

"There is no crime in the city of Richmond against loitering."

But we also hear from neighbors. They say some of these boarded up homes near the store are drug houses and police are doing nothing about it.

We find drug needles behind one vacant home in the 2000 block of Albany Avenue. We press police for answers and they say no one in the community called them.

"I pulled calls for service about the 2000 block for the entire year and we have not one call for service in the 2000 block for drugs narcotics vice offense."

But Wyatt says officers did recently push out some drug dealers in the 1800 block of Albany Avenue.

He takes the issue seriously, but he stresses he can't help if no one speaks up.

"You can't expect me to address a problem if I don't know it exists."

The City of Richmond says that the 301 Express Store has been cited in the past for trash and that city inspectors continue to monitor the store.

Meanwhile residents can report problems to the city though the see click fix website at seeclickfix.com/richmond.

Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond

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