In the most recent two-year period for which data is available, the number of homicides at Indiana convenience stores more than doubled. Injuries from violent acts went up 250 percent. A report on convenience store safety from the state department of labor, months in the making, uses 40 pages to suggest improvements like better lighting, high resolution video cameras and training for managers and employees.
Stores, Advocates Consider Recommended Improvements
Jay Ricker says his company is already doing those things.
“We have safes that are cash-handling safes everyplace,” he says. “We do pretty extensive training on cash-handling, so we just don’t say you can’t have more than a hundred dollars.”
Ricker owns a chain of 50 convenience stores around the state, and while each location has basic safety measures, the company employs upgrades at certain stores. At locations Ricker considers more at-risk of robbery, the company will install bulletproof glass and arrange for cash pickups by armored truck.
Theresia Whitfield serves as the representative of several families which have seen relatives killed or hurt in convenience store crimes. She also helped put together the state’s recommendations. But she says safety cannot just be left up to companies like Ricker’s.
“I’m deeply disappointed to hear that the department of labor can’t mandate any of the recommendations,” Whitfield says. “Not to suggest that they misled us but I guess we were all under the impression that that’s what was going to happen.”
Legislators Take Steps To Increase Safety
Labor Department Commissioner Lori Torres says her agency does not have the authority to do any more than suggest what safety measures companies should take.
“So this was always just a set of recommendations, a set of standards,” Torres says. “We didn’t create the best practices, we identified the best practices.”
Indianapolis Democratic Representative Ed DeLaney says it’s up to the legislature to give the recommendations some teeth.
“We have to have some minimum requirements,” he says. “I think we can use our excise police, in particular, to conduct inspections.”
Ricker says there are problems that could arise from legislation.
“You know, the concern that I have as a business owner that it goes overboard and one size doesn’t really fit all,” he says.
DeLaney says he is prepared for pushback from those who are philosophically opposed to greater regulation. But he says he thinks lessons learned from the Indiana State Fair stage collapse will help.
“We need to deal with risks and we need to deal with them in advance,” DeLaney says, “so I think the legislature’s getting a little better educated and this will be part of the process.”
Both Ricker and Torres say they will need to see the specifics of any bill before offering support. Whitfield says legislation is the only way for the families of victims to have any confidence that changes will be made.