Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Public safety

Recent slayings put store clerks on high alert

"You have to be selective where you stop," Cadle said at the RaceTrac on Bloomingdale Avenue in Riverview at 11 p.m. Monday. "If there's no cars in the parking lot, I don't stop."

Cadle has always been attentive, looking for well-lit stores and only stopping at those he's familiar with. But when 7-Eleven clerk Kenneth Redding was stabbed to death at the store just a couple blocks east on Bloomingdale, Cadle said it was "a bit of a rude awakening" for the community.

"It can happen anywhere," Cadle said. "You just wouldn't expect that out here."

Babita Patel, who owns the Stop and Pick Food Store on Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa, said she always has safety on her mind while at work. But the news of both Redding's death and that of a Family Dollar store manager, Horsley Shorter Jr., who was killed during a recent robbery in East Tampa, has her concerned.

Tampa Police are still looking for Demetrius L. Parks in connection with the murder.

Patel's small Marathon gas station already closes at 11 p.m. but she is thinking about other ways to make it safer.

"I am so exposed behind the counter," she said. "We are thinking about putting glass in."

RaceTrac clerk Luke Faircloth said working overnight is inherently stressful and dangerous, but said RaceTrac encourages law enforcement to check in, offering free coffee and fountain drinks.

"I do feel safer than I would at a smaller gas station," Faircloth said. "Obviously, I was scared when I heard (about the 7-Eleven murder), but I knew it was a high risk job when I took it. I'm not going to give up a good paying job over a random occurrence."

RaceTrac spokeswoman Ashleigh Collins said the company works to foster a safe environment for employees and guests by maintaining well-lit stores and parking lots, installing 24-hour surveillance videos in the stores and cultivating ongoing relationships with local authorities."

The day after Redding's death, the 7-Eleven at 11015 Bloomingdale Ave. hired Morrison Security Corporation to stand guard outside the store.

"Our general purpose is to make sure that the client's customers are safe and feel comfortable visiting their location," said Martin Harm, vice president for the southern region for Morrison Security.

All corporate 7-Eleven store managers and staff are trained extensively in how to maintain store security and deter potential crimes and violence, said Margaret Chabris, director of corporate communications for 7-Eleven. They also encourage managers to keep their windows uncluttered and visible from the street, and the store brightly lit at night.

To deter crime, stores only keep $50 in cash in the register during the day and $30 at night, Chabris said.

Dominique Daniels, who works at the Thorntons down the road, said the news about the 7-Eleven murder was sad, but it did not worry him about his own safety.

"There's like five sheriff cars that patrol the area every night," Daniels said. "I feel very comfortable here."

In the case of the 7-Eleven murder, Hillsborough County spokesman Larry McKinnon said it wasn't a case where the store could've or should've done something differently. The store was already employing many of the tactics the sheriff's office advocates: clear windows and visibility, proper lighting and security cameras.

"There are just some incidents, because of the inherent danger in the job, that you won't be able to avoid," McKinnon said. "The biggest thing is to provide as many safety measures as possible. The more you can implement, the more you can reduce the odds of something happening."

Despite the news, Mike Kassim, a manager at a small Shell gas station on the corner of Ehrlich Road and Walsh Lane in Citrus Park, said he doesn't spend too much time worrying. His store closes at 10:30 p.m. most nights, though, so overnight safety isn't a concern, he said, and there is a heavy law enforcement presence in the community.

"I've worked here for eight years and I've never had a problem," he said. "We don't have any stickups or anything in this area."

Caitlin Johnston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2443.

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