Lawsuit: Midtown convenience store is magnet for crime

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by Doug Miller / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on January 26, 2012 at 7:11 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 27 at 11:12 AM

HOUSTON—A convenience store on the edge of downtown Houston has become such a magnet for crime that the Harris County Attorney’s Office has filed a lawsuit pressuring the owner to either make it safe or close it down.

Law enforcement officers have been called to the Tigermart Texaco on Fannin Street more than 200 times since last August and they’ve arrested 10 people in the last year for everything from robbery to prostitution to drug crimes.  Street people routinely loiter around the property all day and night. 

“There have been multiple drug arrests,” said Laura Cahill, senior assistant county attorney.  “There have been robberies.  There have been assaults, prostitution.  You’ve got a lot of transients over there.  It’s causing a big problem for people who have been going to get gas or go to the convenience store.”

Even some of the homeless people congregating around the store also complain about criminals wandering around the property.

“They’re either just walking around, or they’re looking for somebody to swipe something from,” said Thurman Farley, who said he lives in a bunkhouse near the store.  “And it’s got to stop.”

The convenience store sits directly across the street from a Greyhound bus terminal that’s been a source of tension and trouble in the area for decades.  Neighbors have long complained it attracts criminals, derelicts and drug addicts. 

Jae Kim, the landowner named in the county’s lawsuit, says he, himself, was threatened by a homeless man wielding a knife.  Many of those calls to the police came from store employees asking for help chasing away the drug addicts and other criminals on the property.  Kim plans to confer with the county attorney’s office, but he says he doesn’t know how to get rid of the troublemakers drawn to his area of midtown.

“I’ve tried to solve the problem,” he said.  “I really don’t know what to do.”

The lawsuit represents an unusual alliance between the city and county governments, whose officials don’t always cooperate for their common good.  Houston police officers built the case, but Harris County attorneys are pursuing it in court, Cahill said. 

A similar lawsuit the county filed late last year targeted a southwest Houston nightclub.  Cahill said her office is preparing a number of other cases against owners of so-called nuisance properties.

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