Retailer Faces Loitering Backlash

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Retailer Faces Loitering Backlash

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. -- Angry homeowners have petitioned police to arrest people hanging outside a Delray Beach convenience store, saying they are a nuisance that damages their neighborhood. Residents also want police to take action against the store's landlord, claiming he isn't doing enough to clean up the store's image.

To address residents' concerns, police arrested at least three people there this year for drug dealing, records show. They warned many others about loitering. Now they want the property owner of Roper's Grocery & Deli to be held accountable, the Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.

Police officials filed paperwork last week to bring store property owner Samuel Potts in front of the city's nuisance abatement board Aug. 26. The board has the power to shut down troublesome businesses and fine them. Police said they don't want to close Roper's but want to require Potts to push away the dealers and loiterers. They said they are addressing residents' complaints.

But Potts, who sports a lengthy prison rap sheet himself, said the Police Department is wrongly targeting his property. He said the arrests have taken place off his land, and he can't control what happens there.

"Someone pulls up at a parking lot next to us, sells dope, and they hold us responsible," Potts said. "They expect us to do everything."

The case against Roper's is the fourth to go before the five-member board since it was created in 1997, according to the City Clerk's Office. The board has been criticized as being unfair toward property owners. Police maintain they aren't using the board to hurt businesses. They said the board is another tool in fighting drug dealing in the city, particularly in drug hot spots, the report said.

Community leaders contend Potts hasn't taken adequate action to get rid of the problems. Potts, however, said he has put up anti-loitering signs outside his building and regularly asks people to leave his property. He said he is also concerned because police haven't put any pressure on his tenants, Roper's convenience store, operated by James Roper, to help keep loitering to minimum.

Police haven't disclosed yet what kinds of action they hope the nuisance board would take against Potts. Police records show that one arrest occurred on the property's parking lot in February and another occurred on the property in January but didn't indicate where specifically. Records for the third arrest couldn't be obtained, the report said.