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Operation Compliance: Detroit Shuts Down ‘Illegal Businesses’

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DETROIT (WWJ) - The city of Detroit is putting padlocks on what they consider “illegal businesses” running without licenses or permits that are often considered as potential breeding grounds for blight and crime in the city.

Six businesses were shut down Thursday and their entryways sealed as part of Mayor Dave Bing’s “Operation Compliance.” If the business owner or any other individual breaches the sealed entrance of the closed businesses, that person will be subject to a $500 per day fine and/or imprisonment.

“Our objective is to bring every business in Detroit into full compliance with the law,” Bing said in a statement. “Proper permitting and ordinance compliance is essential to operating a business in our city.”

The city said the businesses targeted for Operation Compliance have multiple violations or have not made their properties available for safety inspections. In each case, the city says the business was notified by letter in the fall of 2012 asking them to comply with city building ordinances, but they received no response.

WWJ’s Ron Dewey visited Sonny’s Tire Shop on Tireman Street, one of the targeted businesses, and found not everything is the way it seems. Sonny Shines, who bought the business with his father, said they had no idea the previous operator had a laundry list of city hall violations.

“My family didn’t even know. My dad, he doesn’t speak much english and when we got this business, we thought we were going to go the city, get the permit. Then, the day before yesterday, the inspector comes by and he gives me a slip and tells me ‘You guys are shut down,'” said Shines.

“The guys that were here would throw the violations out. They told him to close down a long time ago, but they didn’t. And now I’m stuck with it, my dad is stuck with it. I just don’t understand.”

Shines say the seller agreed to pay the fines, and they’re now cleaning up the property and getting the proper licenses and permits to make things right.

A junkyard in the Plymouth/Oakman area was also among the businesses being shut down. Employee Zack Shara says the property owner is now securing the permits from the city to stay open.

“I mean, it’s the city so you can’t really fight it. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to survive,” he said.

The Operation Compliance enforcement team expects to close an average of 20 illegal businesses in Detroit each week. An example of an illegal business is an appliance resale shop operating in an area that is zoned for retail.

Nathan Ford, director of the city’s Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department, said the message they’re sending is that business owners need to follow the law.

“We want the world to know that the City of Detroit is doing business differently and implementing programs that can assist the growth of business in the city,” Ford said in a statement.

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