“It’s going to be a burden on businesses at the worst possible economic time,” says director of the Mississippi Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores Association.
A new ordinance in Jackson, Miss., is requiring local convenience stores to file a security plan with the city and hire security personnel to guard their premises from midnight to 5 a.m., if they intend to stay open all night, the Clarion-Ledger reported.
The ordinance was approved on Sept. 6 by a 4-2 vote, and is set to go into effect 30 days from approval. The move is leaving local c-store owners, confused, concerned and it’s causing some to rethink their business hours.
Quentin Whitwell, a lawyer and member of the Council that voted against the bill, questions the law’s constitutionality. “I am not sure we can choose a certain kind of business to do certain things when there are other businesses that are open at the same times that are not being required to do these things as well,” he told the Clarion-Ledger.
The ordinance points out that convenience stores have been the site of violent crimes and robberies, but the Clarion-Ledger noted that FBI crime statistics from 2009 show far more robberies occurring at places other than convenience stories. Of all the armed robberies nationwide, 5.4% were convenience store robberies and 2.2% were gas station robberies compared to residential robberies at 16.9% and street crime at 42.8%.
One local owner even said keeping the store open at night versus closing up shop after midnight had better results for him in deterring robbery. And Whitwell worried that the presence of a security guard could cause a non-violent robbery to escalate to violence.
The price of hiring the security guard is set to be a major hit to store owners. As if c-stores don’t have enough to worry about in a tough economic environment, they now have to set aside $18-$20 an hour to pay a trained security guard to patrol the store at night.
Philip Chamblee, director of the Mississippi Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores Association, said by conservative estimates, a security guard could cost stores $23,000 or more per year. “Convenience store operators want a safe place for their customers to shop and employees to work, but you’ve also got to look at this type of ordinance. It’s going to be a burden on businesses at the worst possible economic time,” he said.