New regulations aimed at store safety
Area convenience store owners say proposed regulations by the state Environment Department aimed at making the stores safer for clerks and customers duplicate what they already do.
But an Environment Department official said Monday not all convenience stores follow all the guidelines.
The Environment Department announced the proposed regulations Sept. 29 and held public meetings on them from Oct. 20 to 29, in Hobbs, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Roswell, Farmington, Albuquerque, and Taos.
Following a series of high profile violent incidents at convenience stores, including the murders of clerks in Tucumcari and Hobbs, the state Legislature passed a joint memorial in the spring of 2003 directing the Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau to investigate the problem and suggest solutions, said Georgia Cleverley, chief of the Environment Department’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau.
She said the study resulted in a set of draft regulations that, if enacted, would include:
n Increased lighting in parking and store area.
n Windows clear of signage.
n Video camera surveillance.
n A silent alarm linked to police or a security company.
n Time lock safes or drop safes.
n A limited amount of cash on hand.
n Employee training on safety and security issues.
n Closing between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 p.m., or providing controlled access to employees — protecting them from unwanted intruders — or putting an additional person on duty.
Cleverley said the department will send a letter of petition and a set of draft regulations to the state Environmental Improvement Board, which sets employee health and safety regulations. It will ask the board to set a date for a formal public hearing on the regulations, possibly in January or March, she said.
Dan McCurdy, director of communications for Town and Country Stores, a chain based in San Angelo, Texas, with stores in New Mexico, said Town and Country does not object to most of the recommendations, most of which it already follows. However, McCurdy said the company objects to using a silent alarm because it may put employees in greater danger.
“We train our employees to observe closely and listen carefully to what an armed robber is telling them; then to follow those instructions, ending with the robber leaving the store as soon as possible. If the clerk fumbles for the silent alarm device, he or she is distracted from paying attention to the robber’s demands and thus is put in much greater jeopardy,” he said.
Tommy Smith, owner of Clovis Oil with two convenience stores in Clovis, said his stores already follow most of the proposed regulations, and the stores close between 11 p.m. and 5:30 a.m.
“We’ve had incidents, but fortunately none of our employees have been injured. It doesn’t take long for the bad guys to know who has cameras,” he said.
“It’s a bad thing when the ‘federals’ get involved in our business. They usually screw it up,” he added.
Gayla Brumfield, owner of the Colonial One Stop convenience store, said after talking to Environment Department officials, she feels confident she has nothing to fear from the proposed regulations.
“We’re closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. We have surveillance cameras. On the surface, it doesn’t look like something we need to be afraid of,” she said.
But Cleverley said not all convenience stores follow the regulations, which underlines why they should be made mandatory.
“A lot of convenience store owners say they already do this. What we’ve found is that often that means they follow three or four (of the regulations). You need to follow eight out of eight,” she said.
Cleverley said the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration came up with a similar set of guidelines in 1998, but, so far, has only required voluntary compliance.