A recent outbreak in violence around a 7-Eleven in Woodbridge, Virginia, is leading to big changes in the area. Around-the-clock police patrols and other steps have helped clear the trouble spot, but the crackdown also means dozens of day laborers are suddenly without a place to pick up work.
Day or night, the 7-Eleven on Richmond Highway and the once-thick woods behind it have been a hotspot for criminal activity, including homicides in July and October. This month, another fatal shooting and stabbing occurred.
But in recent weeks, a big change has happened, with the 7-Eleven now off-limits to loitering. There is a heavy police presence, the woods have been thinned, and a fence has gone up. It comes as a relief to Sean Jones, whose partner was shot to death there in July.
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"It's a shame two more murders had to take place before something was done," Jones said. "It doesn’t bring her back, but it gives me a little peace of mind knowing that the county is actually doing something about it."
Prince William County Supervisor Margaret Franklin says various agencies worked for months to put the plan in place. The plan also includes installing more cameras, urging businesses to cooperate with police. The Virginia ABC has also suspended the liquor license at the 7-Eleven.
"We have a good plan of action moving forward, and I think that we'll see a complete decrease, if not elimination altogether, of criminal activity in that area," Franklin said.
But making the 7-Eleven a no trespassing zone also means that dozens of day laborers who’ve gathered here for many years there to pick up work are suddenly scattered. Through a translator, Hernandez Rico Sosa said his income, needed to support six family members, has nearly dried up.
"I’ve been without a job, and now people are really scared to even get close to 7-Eleven, so nobody comes and looks for people to work for them," he said.
These workers are hoping the county will designate a new, safe place to meet.
"We're asking or we're hoping to get a safe place like we used to be at 7-Eleven all together and start getting jobs back again," Woodbridge resident Salavdor Roldan said through a translator.
Nancy Lyall helps lead a group that brings food to the day laborers. That work was also disrupted.
"The police have told us that we're not allowed to distribute food there, and that the day laborers are not allowed to congregate there or they would be arrested," she said.
Franklin says she’s working with the police chief to possibly designate a new location for the men to find work.
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