ATLANTA GA Dec 13 2016 -- A proposed city ordinance to make convenience stores safer is drawing fire from an organization of convenience stores. It would require many stores to have off-duty police on their premises whenever they’re open.
"I think when you have a business that’s being targeted, that you have to take extra precautions," Atlanta city councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, sponsor of the proposed ordinance, said. A thief swiped her purse and phone at a convenience store in September.
The measure would require gas stations and convenience stores to have on site a state certified police officer whenever they’re open – if the store does more than $500,000 is sales in a year – or if the store has reported two violent crimes over the previous twelve months. The store would risk its city business license renewal if it failed to do so.
"The reality is, that right now gas stations are a hotbed for crime," Bottoms said. in an interview with Doug Richards. "We all hope it changes but if it doesn’t, we have to do something to protect people."
But opponents say the proposed ordinance unduly singles out convenience stores – which, they say, often become the focal point of late night 911 calls for crimes that happen elsewhere.
"Because the lights are on 24/7, a lot of people will seek refuge at a convenience store," said Angela Holland of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores. "The lights are on, there’s someone there that can call 911. So a lot of times, crime is brought to the store. It didn’t necessarily happen there."
Holland says having a police officer on site sends a message to the community that the store is unsafe. Councilwoman Lance Bottoms thinks the opposite is true.
The council will consider the measure in early 2017.