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Store holdups trouble St. Petersburg official

Council member Dean Staples is worried about the people behind the counters of the city's convenience stores and is going to ask the Police Department to recommend whether the council should take any action. "Robberies are increasing," Staples said Monday. "We need to take some initiative in that area (of security). I don't see the businesses doing it. Hopefully we can implement something before we have something bad happen."

Staples has put the issue on the agenda of Thursday's City Council meeting.

He said he wants the administration to study ordinances in other cities with an eye toward preventing robberies and violence.

"There are some levels of protection that can be implemented that would give the store clerks a much higher level of protection than they have today," Staples said.

Staples said he wants to prevent incidents that have occurred in Hillsborough County, where four convenience store clerks have been killed in two-and-a-half years.

"Hopefully we can do something and have it in place before we have any casualties," Staples said.

"We've been pretty fortunate in St. Petersburg, but it is only a matter of time. I want to do something before it happens rather than after," he said.

Staples said he knows that many stores have security cameras, that some stores have the workers behind bulletproof glass and that some cities require two clerks in each store during late-night hours.

The cameras, Staples said, help in the apprehension of robbers but don't necessarily prevent robberies.

He cited the example of Felicia June Shova, a clerk at a Circle K store in Tampa whose murder last month was captured on film by the security camera. The photos led to the arrest of Anthony Dion Hill.

"I want to concentrate on prevention, not just apprehension," Staples said.

In 1986, frustrated by a rash of convenience store robberies, city officials in Gainesville enacted the toughest convenience-store protection rules in the country, requiring two clerks in stores.

The number of robberies fell from 61 in 1986 to 16 last year.

However, the convenience store industry generally opposes the two-clerk rules. Staples said he isn't convinced that such an ordinance is needed in St. Petersburg.

Staples said he likes what he has heard about stores that keep their workers behind bulletproof glass, and he wants to hear what other cities have done.

"I just want to set this thing in motion," Staples said.

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