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Panel backs bulletproof enclosures

Tampa convenience store clerks on duty after dark would be required to work behind bulletproof glass enclosures under a proposed ordinance scheduled for discussion by the Tampa City Council next week. The measure was endorsed Wednesday by the city's public safety committee, which also favors security requirements adopted by the Hillsborough County Commission two weeks ago. Those rules require convenience stores and service stations to have unobstructed windows, brightly lighted parking lots, a drop safe inaccessible to employees, security cameras, robbery-prevention training and signs indicating security measures.

As expected, the committee decided against requiring two clerks to be on duty at night, when most convenience-store crimes occur. Tampa Police Department Deputy Chief Tom DePolis told committee members that the two-clerk rule might provide comfort to employees but would not necessarily deter criminals.

Council member Ronnie Mason urged the enclosures, despite the unfavorable image they project. Though the enclosures might lead visitors to believe Tampa is unsafe, convenience-store crimes create an even more harmful image, he said.

"That's also bad publicity, very bad publicity, plus we also have people injured and costs incurred," said Mason, chairman of the public safety committee.

The city's discussion was prompted by the fatal shooting last month of Felicia June Shova, who was working alone at the Circle K at Armenia and Waters avenues.

Some owners of convenience stores endorsed the proposal, but others said the enclosures _ priced from $5,000 to $8,000 _ are too costly, especially for small, independent stores. The council will discuss the proposed ordinance March. 1.