The Cape Girardeau Police Department closed two streets early Saturday morning in an effort to restore peace in a neighborhood that has been plagued by late-night bar patrons who loiter on the streets frequently causing vandalism, littering and fighting all while violating the noise ordinance.
Along with police officers, barricades helped to enforce the closure of Morgan Oak Street from Sprigg Street to west of Ellis Street, and Ellis Street from Good Hope Street to Jefferson Avenue. The closure was in effect from about 1:30 to 2:30 a.m. The only vehicles that were allowed to enter were those who could prove they lived in the blocked-off area.
"We're going to continue to close this area every weekend until the problem is resolved," said police chief Steve Strong. "It has become a real nuisance for the hard-working people who live in the area."
The attraction that draws many of the people to the area during the late night hours is Don's Store 24, which is open 24 hours, at the corner of Sprigg and Morgan Oak. Bars in Cape Girardeau are required to stop serving alcohol at 1:30 a.m., causing a large group of people to meet at Don's shortly after, Strong said.
"Hundreds of people come after the bars to get food from Don's," Strong said. "After that, they hang out in the streets. That is the problem."
The store decided to lock its doors from 1:15 to 2 a.m. Saturday, a prime time for business, to cooperate with the police.
"He's trying to be a good neighbor," Strong said. "He has done everything we've asked."
Don Caldwell, owner of the store, said he will do whatever the police deem appropriate in order to re-establish peace in the area.
"Whatever it takes, I'll do," Caldwell said.
Dawayne Phoenix, attendant of the store and resident of the targeted area, agrees with police that many times the patrons' behavior becomes a nuisance to neighborhood residents.
"Whenever you throw in the alcohol factor with that many people, things start to get crazy," Phoenix said. "A lot of times their stereos are too loud and they trash people's yards."
Still, some residents felt violated by the police action.
Saying that the police are helpful in combating crime in Cape Girardeau, Cynthia Woods, who lives on Ellis, felt her rights were violated by the closure.
"My boyfriend can't even come down here," Cynthia Woods shouted at police guarding Ellis at Jefferson.
Woods was issued a noise violation and a ticket for having an open container of alcohol in a public place by the police who guarded the area Saturday morning.
Other residents welcomed the enforcement.
"It is actually working," said Robert Shamblin, a resident of Ellis, who stood outside his home early Saturday as quiet prevailed in the area.
Frank Abt, who lives on Morgan Oak and starts his workday at 4:30 a.m., also greeted the police enforcement with optimism.
"That noise could kill a guy," Abt said. "It actually looks like I am going to get some sleep."
About 25 residents of the neighborhood gathered at the city council meeting Tuesday to support the added enforcement, said Councilman Matthew Hopkins, who was observing the closure early Saturday morning. Charles Herbst, the councilman for Ward 2, which includes the area of concern, was out of town, Hopkins said.
"We won't allow people to be disturbed in any other area of the city and we're not going to stand for it here," Hopkins said.
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