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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. If I were a developer I would be looking at the Fountain Square and Fletcher Place neighborhoods instead of Broad Ripple. I would avoid the dysfunctional BRVA with all of their headaches. It's like deciding between a Blackberry or an iPhone 5s smartphone. BR is greatly in need of updates. It has become stale and outdated. Whereas Fountain Square, Fletcher Place and Mass Ave have become the "new" Broad Ripples. Every time I see people on the strip in BR on the weekend I want to ask them, "How is it you are not familiar with Fountain Square or Mass Ave? You have choices and you choose BR?" Long vacant storefronts like the old Scholar's Inn Bake House and ZA, both on prominent corners, hurt the village's image. Many business on the strip could use updated facades. Cigarette butt covered sidewalks and graffiti covered walls don't help either. The whole strip just looks like it needs to be power washed. I know there is more to the BRV than the 700-1100 blocks of Broad Ripple Ave, but that is what people see when they think of BR. It will always be a nice place live, but is quickly becoming a not-so-nice place to visit.

  2. I sure hope so and would gladly join a law suit against them. They flat out rob people and their little punk scam artist telephone losers actually enjoy it. I would love to run into one of them some day!!

  3. Biggest scam ever!! Took 307 out of my bank ac count. Never received a single call! They prey on new small business and flat out rob them! Do not sign up with these thieves. I filed a complaint with the ftc. I suggest doing the same ic they robbed you too.

  4. Woohoo! We're #200!!! Absolutely disgusting. Bring on the congestion. Indianapolis NEEDS it.

  5. So Westfield invested about $30M in developing Grand Park and attendance to date is good enough that local hotel can't meet the demand. Carmel invested $180M in the Palladium - which generates zero hotel demand for its casino acts. Which Mayor made the better decision?

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