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    24-Hour Stores in Delaware Forced to Close

    New law prohibits neighborhood stores from staying open all night.

    WILMINGTON, Del. -- In an effort to reduce noise and crime, the Wilmington City Council has approved an ordinance that forces some c-stores to close between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m.

    The law, which begins in October, targets stores in neighborhoods near Southbridge, the East Side, Hilltop, northeast Wilmington, west Center City, Browntown and Hedgeville.

    Councilman Theo Gregory said "The object is to improve late night hours around the stores. Oftentimes, the negative elements at the stores extend six blocks in all directions into the neighborhoods."

    In addition to the reduced hours, the bill also includes a plan to reduce the number of disorderly incidents a store can have before revoking its license. The number, previously five, has been limited to two occurrences.

    The ordinance also allows gas station pumps to be open for 24-hours, but the stores that accompany it must be closed between the specified hours.

    The ordinance does allow stores to seek exemption from the law through the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment. To meet the exception, a store must meet several criteria and have its crime statistics reviewed.

    The exemption criteria is based on the installation of 24-hour surveillance cameras, a documented crime prevention policy and the removal of any products that could be drug paraphernalia from the store.

    Resident Mark Brunswick told the News Journal that the ordinance "creates zones where services won't be available." He believes it will create situations where minorities will be stopped by police while they try to visit other open stores.

    Gregory said that affected customers must tailor their shopping schedules to meet the new ordinance.

    Opponents of the law claim that this will exclude the poor neighborhoods' involvement in making the downtown and riverfront areas a 24-hour attraction.

    Councilwoman Loretta Walsh, an opponent of the law, said that police and inspectors already monitor the businesses and that "this is just adding another layer. This is a city that wants to be known as one that is alive."

    Councilman Kevin F. Kelly Sr. believes that this ordinance will affect no more than 30 stores.

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