ELKHART — While many people were glad to see authorities shut down six convenience stores in Elkhart over allegations of selling synthetic marijuana, David Henke said he believes the approach has some shortcomings.
Henke, a Republican city council member, owns a rental property adjacent to one of the stores and was renting to some of the store employees. He thinks it could have been handled differently.
Henke said police attempting to gain entrance to some of the suspects’ residences broke down several steel frame doors to his rental property with damage totaling $5,000. Insurance won’t pay for it, he said, because it was part of a police action.
Henke said the city is now left to care for six properties, and the closures add to the existing blight in some of the areas.
He’s also critical of other aspects of the approach, such as the decision to apparently leave food in the shuttered stores. He said a month after the raids, he could smell rotting food being vented out of of the Burger Dairy store on West Franklin Avenue.
Soon after complaining, he said he saw the contents from two of the stores being emptied into trucks.
Henke said he does not oppose the raids, but said he thinks there was a lack of understanding and planning for the economic fallout from the police actions.
“Neighborhoods have been disrupted, incomes stopped, rent not paid, groceries less available, gas not as convenient, taxes not collected,” Henke said.
Henke said he thinks a financial penalty should be levied against the owners, but believes the store closures financially penalize neighborhoods and the whole community.
Prosecutor Curtis Hill, who chose to attempt to seize the properties and other assets that are connected to the alleged sales, declined comment about Henke’s concern.
Mayor Dick Moore, saying the case is in the hands of the prosecutor, declined comment as well.