By Ann Rubin
East St. Louis, IL (KSDK) - It's been a heated debate for weeks. Will closing nightclubs earlier reduce crime in East St. Louis?
This week, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and Mayor Alvin Parks turned up the dial even more on the issue.
NewsChannel 5's Ann Rubin has been poring over information to try and find out what's true and what's not about clubs and crime.
The answer is that the crime happens where the people are: that means the housing projects, the downtown area, and the liquor establishments. Overnight, the number of crimes shoots up.
Dino Gene makes his living off of nightclubs, first with Club Phoenix and now with Club 103. Both have had their problems, in fact two men are now being questioned for a fatal shooting outside Club 103, just last month.
But Gene believes the clubs are not the source of the problem.
"It never initiates at the clubs and I don't understand how they keep saying that and people are believing it," said Gene.
And while trouble may not start there, data shows it does frequently end there.
With the help of the U.S. Attorney's Office and a Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville criminologist, we reviewed all the police calls for service from the last year.
Of all crime calls, 1,258, or 11 percent, happened within 100 feet of a business with a liquor license. If you look just at nightclubs, there is a big spike in crime in the hours between midnight and 5 a.m.
"We've proven now analytically what we've always known anecdotally," said U.S. Attorney Steve Wigginton.
Senator Dick Durbin too says the numbers confirm what he's been saying all along, that the clubs need to close earlier. He wants them shut down by 1 a.m. on weekends. Currently, some have no closing time.
Again Wednesday he called for Mayor Alvin Parks to take action.
"Mayor Parks will decide, does he serve the club owners of East St. Louis or the people of East St. Louis? I hope it's the people," said Senator Durbin.
So we took the data to the mayor.
"What it does is draw the attention to the fact that we really need to pay attention during those hours," said Mayor Alvin Parks.
He says within the last few weeks East St. Louis started a program where businesses donate money to pay for extra police overnight.
They've been adding between nine and 15 officers on Fridays and Saturdays.
"It's been working extremely well," said Mayor Parks.
Our data also showed the severity of the crime.
Last year, there were 30 batteries and four assaults near nightclubs. There were 26 shots fired, and three homicides.
The problem hotspots were Club Rolex, which the mayor says has added security. Club Flava, which just lost its license, and Club Phoenix which voluntarily closed down.
"It was so small over there and it was a hot spot and people used to hang out outside and stuff like that. And I just really couldn't get a good control over it," said Gene, who chose to close Club Phoenix.
Gene has started over as co-manager with Club 103.
He says closing at 1 a.m. won't stop the shootings, it will just kill the clubs.
"My biggest beef with it is, basically it's going to put us all out of business," he said.
For now, he's added armed guards, and added an age restriction: 25 and up. He says right now he's fighting for his livelihood.
"Just beef up security to the maximum. I said I'll pay whatever the cost to keep the people safe," he said.
At a news conference Thursday Mayor Parks said he thinks the focus needs to be, not on nightclubs, but on job creation.
Senator Durbin has said it will be difficult to bring in new businesses, until crime is under control.