A crime-fighting plan for urban store operators NPNweb.com
A crime-fighting plan for urban store operators Crime in and around convenience stores has been a chronic challenge in many urban markets around the nation; now Houston is in the midst of devising a crime-fighting plan that could be of interest to store operators in urban markets around the country. Installing security cameras and clearing clutter from store windows are two steps that store operators can take, according to a report released Aug. 28 by Houston Mayor Bill White's Task Force on Convenience Store Security. The 38-member task force consisted of city officials, the Houston Police Department and convenience store owners; it spent eight months researching, meeting and composing the report. The Task Force recommended that: a private-public initiative in the form of a standing Convenience Store Advisory Council be launched and sustained by the city of Houston and "all stakeholders;" the city police department establish a convenience store unit and positive interaction program, and increase officer presence and promote code compliance and review; and convenience store owners be required to implement a number of "relatively inexpensive" measures to reduce crime - such as installing security cameras and clearing clutter from storefront windows to allow unobstructed sight lines. The report noted, "convenience stores do not all follow the same business model," and recommended the membership of the council should reflect that diversity. The Council should include three independent convenience store owners, three representatives from the major petroleum industry chains, three trade association representatives, two city of Houston residents not otherwise associated with the convenience store or petroleum industries, two representatives of the city of Houston, one representative of Crime Stoppers, and one representative of the Houston Police Department, the report advised. Further, the Advisory Council should propose an ordinance based on the recommendations of the task force, specifying details such as lighting requirements. The Council should also designate the contents of a "security packet" including a security training DVD, security decals, a security pamphlet, and suspect identification forms, the report said. The Council should also consider how to fund the creation and distribution of the security packet, the task force report stated. In 2006, Houston police recorded 6,962 incidents at 980 convenience stores or their parking lots, according to the report. Officials said crime at convenience stores has decreased by about 8 percent since 2003. "The crime trends are positive and downward, but we can't be satisfied," said Mayor White in a press release. "The Task Force has helped us understand how we can work smarter together to improve on security and cooperation." "The establishment and working of this Task Force is an example of how the public and private sectors can work together towards a common goal by bringing all stakeholders to the table," Task Force Chairman Zaf Tahir said.