SOUTH SHORE — A community group is charging that the parking lot at a South Side Jewel-Osco has become an unsafe magnet for crime, and the local alderman says the store has agreed to boost security.
The Grand Crossing Community Network sent a letter late last month to the company demanding immediate improvements be made at the store on 75th Street and Stony Island Avenue.
The letter claims the store has refused to provide better-trained security, like off-duty police officers, inside and outside the store and security that is more professional than current staff. It wants more security cameras installed on all sides of the building, including 75th Street.
The group also charges that "troubled employees" — possibly including security that look the other way — have assisted in "deleterious street trade and activity."
And the group wants the store to stop selling "cheap alcohol" that it claims fuels problems.
“This store has persistent issues with inadequate security, illegal soliciting and drug transactions, robberies, unsanitary conditions and lack of shopping carts,” the letter states.
The group said it met with 8th Ward Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) last year along with store management, but problems remain.
“We’re demanding adequate security," said group leader Kenyatta Hunter.
Representatives of Jewel said they were unaware of illegal activity outside the store.
"Jewel-Osco is not aware of any loitering or alleged drug-selling outside of the store at 7530 S. Stony Island Ave.,” said spokeswoman Mary Frances Trucco.
Trucco's statement did not address concerns about security, employees or other issues raised by the group.
Chicago police declined to comment.
In an interview, Harris said that police told her there haven't been any drug sales in the store or parking lot, only off the property. She said Jewel management has been cooperative and receptive to making improvements.
"We don't have a drug problem. There's a lot of nuisance problems, with someone selling loose cigarettes and CDs," she said. "These issues didn't come up over night."
The store has a liquor license and sells individual, small liquor containers that attract customers who sometimes beg for money to buy them. She doesn't want to yank the store's liquor license, but would support a community agreement that would prohibit sales of certain types and sizes of alcohol at the store, she said.
Jewel officials have agreed to bring in a new security car to patrol the parking lot, Harris said. The store also will install brighter lights outside, she said. Both changes will be seen in the next 30 to 40 days, Harris said.
Customers shopping at the store last week agreed that security can be an issue. One woman, who lives in the community, said that she prefers to shop when it's not dark because she notices a lot of loitering both day and night.
"I can't say for sure if there's illegal stuff going on, but it can look like it sometimes," she said.
Another shopper said that he understands why some have concerns even though he has never seen anything besides people begging for change or selling loose cigarettes.
"We got that problem everywhere; it's not just here," he said. "But I can see why people don't like it. We as a people got to do better."