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City okays protective glass enclosures for stores

Not convinced that having two clerks on duty at night makes the difference in preventing robberies, City Council members voted Thursday to allow store owners to install bullet resistant glass instead. The modification of the city ordinance, the strictest of its kind in the Tampa Bay area when it was passed nine months ago, came at the request of store owners who said the extra expense of a second clerk could drive them out of business.

After hearing impassioned pleas from owners of gas stations/convenience stores, council members voted to allow store owners the option of installing bullet resistant glass enclosures instead of having two clerks on duty from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Bradley S. Turner, 28, a convenience store clerk at Dan's Mobil Mart, said he works behind a bullet resistant glass enclosure and he feels safer than having a second clerk on duty.

"I'm in the box," Turner said. "I'm locked in. There's nothing they can do to me. You got nothing to worry about."

City Manager Robert Obering told council members that the convenience store ordinance did not seem to be reducing robberies. During the four months before the ordinance took effect, the city had 36 convenience store robberies. In the four months since the ordinance, the city has had 30 robberies.

Council member Paul Yingst said the bullet resistant glass alternative seemed like a good way to allow businesses to cut their expenses while protecting the clerks.

Bullet resistant glass is the same as what is referred to routinely as bulletproof glass. Chief assistant city attorney John Wolfe explained to council members that there is no such thing as bulletproof glass because there are some heavy duty guns and bullets that can pierce glass.

The bullet resistant glass enclosures will cost between $35,000 and $40,000, store owners told council members. But it's a one-time expense, whereas having a second clerk on duty from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. is an annual expense of about $30,000, according to store owners. That $30,000 would cover the cost to hire clerks to fill the 12-hour shift and related benefits.

The change takes effect immediately. The law affects 107 stores in the city.

Last year, council members passed a sweeping convenience store safety ordinance that was one of the strictest in the state.

It requires nighttime customers to pay for gasoline before they pump, forbids public telephones inside stores, requires a silent alarm, a security camera, a drop safe, bright lighting in the parking lot and an unobstructed view of the cash register from outside.

On Thursday, council members voted 9-0 to approve the modification to the ordinance.