4 Efforts to Deal With C-Store Theft

By 
Steve Holtz, Editor in Chief, CSP Daily News

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CHICAGO -- A San Diego convenience-store retailer said customers steal beer or energy drinks from his store at least twice a day, and 10 or more thefts a day is not out of the question. Sometimes they put the single-serve beers down their pants or in a purse. Other times, when the store is busy, they’ll brazenly walk out with an 18-pack in each hand.

A nervous neighborhood wants to blame homeless people who hang out nearby. The employee, who goes by Fredley, says that’s not the case. “They are teenagers [and] not homeless people,” Fredley told the San Diego Reader.

Fredley said he and other area store leaders have made adjustments within their stores in attempts to curb the thefts. Here’s a look at those solutions and two other c-store security issues facing communities …

San Diego

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In Fredley’s store in the Normal Heights neighborhood of San Diego, he and his team have stacked 12-packs of soda to block one aisle leading from the cold vault to the exit. Customers seeking access to the cooler have to walk around the checkout island and roller grill to get there and come back the same way, according to the report.

In another store nearby, the store manager—Paul—has given night employees permission to lock the cooler after dark. “We had a … guy come in every single night,” an employee of the store told the newspaper. “He always took at least an 18-pack of Modelo every night [and] because of him we started locking [the beer doors at night]; then he started coming in the morning.”

Their struggle continues.

Madison, Wis.

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In Madison, Wis., a City Council committee is reviewing a proposal to mandate security cameras at all the city’s convenience stores, but business groups say such a “one-size-fits-all” approach is counterproductive and ineffective against crime, according to a Watchdog.org report.

The proposal advanced by Mayor Paul Soglin is now before the Public Safety Review Committee. It outlines where cameras need to be aimed, the picture quality and penalties for violations, which run from $200 to $750, depending on the number of violations an establishment has.

Brandon Scholz, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Grocers Association, said it’s ridiculous to impose a blanket mandate because the stores have different security needs, based on their square footage, location, how the store is designed and the amount of customer traffic.

New Orleans

The New Orleans City Council continues to consider a nearly 1-year-old proposal to place surveillance cameras in every city business that sells alcohol, including convenience stores, restaurants and bars. Mayor Mitch Mandrieu pitched the idea, which would require more than 1,500 cameras throughout the city, back in January citing a need to improve security in the city, according to a report in the New Orleans Advocate. The city opened a Real Time Crime Monitoring Center staffed by city employees in November, reviving the proposal. The ordinance would require all alcohol-beverage outlets to add exterior cameras that feed into the security hub and to keep their video for at least two weeks.

Philadelphia

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On the other side of the coin, in Philadelphia, a city councilwoman is pushing a bill through City Hall that includes a ban on the use of bulletproof glass in convenience stores.

Councilwoman Cindy Bass is effectively pushing the bill because she doesn't want constituents' feelings to be hurt, according to a report in the Independent Journal Review.

“We want to make sure that there isn't this sort of indignity, in my opinion, to serving food through plexiglass only in certain neighborhoods,” Bass told WTFX.

Convenience-store owners are fighting the effort.

“The most important thing is our safety and the public's safety,” said Rich Kim, owner of the Broad Deli. “If the glass comes down, the crime rate will rise. And there will a lot of dead bodies.”

The bill was approved by the city’s Public Health and Human Services Committee and is now before the City Council.