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DeLaney calls for action to boost safety at convenience stores

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An Indiana lawmaker wants to find out whether convenience store operators and state regulators will do enough on their own to increase the safety of store employees before deciding whether he’ll propose legislation forcing the issue.

Rep. Ed DeLaney, an Indianapolis Democrat, said at a Wednesday morning press conference that he has asked the Indiana Department of Labor to convene a forum with police, convenience store operators, Department of Labor officials and other interested parties.

He hopes the forum will occur within weeks. The outcome, he said, may determine whether he decides to propose a bill and what it could contain.

“The problem is very substantial,” DeLaney said, noting that some convenience stores are robbed as much as once a month.

He held the press conference in the parking lot of the Village Pantry at 1415 W. 86th St., where clerk Marcella Birnell was shot in the head during a late night shift on Oct. 21. She’s now going through therapy at an out-of-state rehabilitation hospital.

Flanking DeLaney at the press conference were Perry Tole, Birnell’s brother in law, and the widower and son of Becky Hough, who was fatally shot while working at the 1402 S. Meridian St. Village Pantry in November 2009.

An Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation in the wake of Hough’s death found employees at the South Meridian Street store had been involved in more than 32 robberies involving force since 2000.

This summer, VP’s parent company, North Carolina-based VPS Convenience Store Group, agreed to pay a $7,000 fine to settle allegations the South Meridian Street store failed to establish and maintain “reasonably safe” working conditions.

As part of the settlement, all 134 Indiana Village Pantry stories in Indiana will be under state scrutiny through June 2014. During that time, VPS will have to submit quarterly reports detailing corrective actions to improve safety and security. VPS’ plan includes a host of measures, including installation of advanced digital surveillance equipment and safety-barrier doors at high-risk locations.

State labor Commissioner Lori Torres offered to convene a "working group" on convenience store safety when she met with DeLaney Nov. 29, Department of Labor spokesman Robert Dittmer said late Wednesday morning. He said the first meeting is expected to be in mid-January.

A VPS spokesman said company officials have not yet been invited to participate. But she added the chain "supports a continuous dialogue about employee and customer safety and regulatory efforts aimed at enhancing best practices in the industry.”

Joe Lackey, president of the Indiana Grocery & Convenience Store Association, said: “We will be happy to discuss anything that could possibly lead to furthering the safety of our employees and customers. At the same time, I am not overly optimistic any great revelations are going to come from it.”

He added: “You can certainly tighten things down to the point you do no business at all. Then you close the store. So it becomes a balance, to a degree.”

DeLaney said one step more stores could take would be installing bullet-resistant plastic between customers and clerks. He said higher staffing levels also would be a deterrent. Birnell and Hough were working alone when they were shot.

“I think it is hard to justify having only one person in a store,” he said. “No security device is as effective as a second set of eyes.”

But DeLaney added he was keeping an open mind. “I’m not rigid yet.”
 

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.

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