SW Atlanta community rallies against violent crime at Adamsville gas station

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Residents concerned about crime rallied Wednesday at the Citgo station at 3657 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Adamsville, demanding the location be shuttered. Some worry an empty building would attract crime, not repel it, and say a business shouldn’t be blamed for crime that happens near it.

“It’s just ridiculous,” said community activist Priscilla Birdsong, who said she’s avoided the property for years and wants the gas station closed. Workers from neighboring businesses and the gas station’s private security guard looked on during the gathering and business mostly halted at the gas station while community members, police and media were there.

The gas station has been the subject of nearly 100 calls to 911, said Atlanta District 10 Councilwoman Andrea Boone, whose office organized the rally and brought bright yellow signs saying “Citgo Must Go” and “Shut it Down.” Two people were injured in a shooting at the gas station last month. In January, a man was shot and killed there.

“It’s become a haven for crime,” Boone said at the rally. “Homicides, robberies, prostitution, open drug sales. Enough is enough.”

Boone was scheduled to testify Thursday in municipal court about whether the Citgo should be labeled a “nuisance property.”

ExploreIn rare nuisance hearing, city pushes to close SW Atlanta gas station

Residents who, like Boone, want the gas station closed, say they’ve witnessed rampant drug use, prostitution and violent crime at the location and say students from nearby Atlanta Charter High School avoid the store as they walk home after class.

Others say crime is not the fault of one business but the result of greater systemic issues and a shuttered store won’t help.

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Cynthia Douglas opened Memeez Soul Food next to the Citgo in 2014.

“If we close down the gas station, we’ll have an abandoned building,” Douglas said. “So it’s a bigger problem.”

She noted crime is an issue across metro Atlanta and detailed her dedication to her neighborhood.

“I’ve been serving this community for seven years,” said Douglas, who opens at 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday, serves mostly breakfast and counts many of the area’s senior citizens among her regulars. “I’m doing something.”

She also stocks a can of naloxone, commonly known by its brand name Narcan, used to revive people suffering from opioid overdoses.

“I feed these people when they’re hungry. If they’re thirsty, I give them what they need. They come ask me when these people’s families are looking for them,” Douglas said, tears trickling down her cheeks. “Sometimes I’ll be the first person to tell these people their family (member) is deceased or something has happened to them.”

Several Atlanta police officers were present Wednesday.

“We’ve had a lot of complaints about this location and met with members of the community who expressed concern about some of the children being exposed to and seeing some things they shouldn’t see,” Zone 1 Commander Maj. Reginald Moorman said. “We asked that the community call us when they have issues at this location, and they do.”

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Arthur Majid and Rashi Elrashid of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network were among the rally attendees. They want to see the city combat crime but not close the gas station.

“We’re here to stop drug activity, criminal acts, things of that nature,” Majid said. “We’re trying to help the whole city. Shutting the business down is not our goal.”

According to public records, the property at the center of Wednesday’s rally is owned by a holding company called Flo-Flo LLC, whose representatives could not be reached for comment.

Councilwoman Boone said neither the landlord nor tenants of the building have engaged with her office in her attempts to reduce crime. She described the landlords as “absentee owners” and placed equal blame for the criminal activity on them and their tenants.

“It’s just a cash cow for the owners,” Boone said. “They haven’t been good stewards.”

Boone called on community members to attend Thursday’s hearing at the Atlanta municipal courts. Labeling the gas station a nuisance property would allow the city to assess the business owners for costs related to persistent crime and even revoke their license to sell alcohol.

“They promised us security and did not deliver,” Boone said of the business owners. “They promised us that they would be better stewards of this community and they weren’t.”