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Tampa considers security for convenience store clerks

Placing convenience store and service station clerks behind bulletproof glass enclosures might be the "ultimate security measure," Tampa Police Chief A. C. McLane told the Tampa City Council on Thursday. Council members listened to reports from McLane and Robert Smith, the city's director of public safety, then heard from several store owners during a workshop on legislation to protect convenience store clerks.

The information was presented to council member Ronnie Mason, who heads the city's public safety committee. The committee will meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday in council chambers to develop a specific recommendation to present to council members.

The workshop was prompted by a fatal shooting at a Circle K at Armenia and Waters avenues last month. Store manager Felicia June Shova, 27, was working alone when she was shot.

Last week, Hillsborough County Commissioners addressed the issue by adopting an ordinance specifying a list of security requirements for

convenience stores, including unobstructed windows, brightly lighted parking lots, a drop safe inaccessible to employees, security cameras, robbery prevention training and signs indicating security measures.

The list did not include bulletproof enclosures or two clerks on duty at night, though commissioners said they would consider those items.

Tampa opted to consider its own safety requirements.

McLane and Smith both recommended that the city consider the safety measures included on the county's list as well as bullet-resistant enclosures for clerks. Both expressed concern that, although having two clerks on duty might be a deterrent to crime, more clerks might result in more victims injured during a crime.

Smith said he had been prepared to recommend endorsing a two-clerk

requirement based on statistics on convenience store crime in Gainesville, where such a law was enacted in 1986. Since then, the number of convenience store robberies per year has dropped from 61 to 16, according to Gainesville police.

But after reading other reports and looking at information gathered by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Smith said he found the evidence inconclusive.

The workshop pleased Bob Miller, a gas station owner who asked the council earlier this month to consider the two-clerk rule.

"I would still advocate two clerks, yes, but you have to be realistic and realize you would possibly be jeopardizing two lives," he said after the workshop. "I think the proper way . . . to approach this is with bullet-resistant material."

Council member Linda Saul-Sena suggested offering store owners a list of options. For instance, stores could close during late-night and early-morning hours, or remain open and install bullet-proof glass or have two clerks on duty.