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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- A recent kidnapping of an employee from a Kwik Shop convenience store has called attention to the safety of c-store associates who work late at night, according to a report by area television station KCRG-TV9.
Under Cedar Rapids law, stores with only one employee working the overnight shift must install a surveillance camera. The Kwik Shop store did have a working camera, which helped police catch a suspect, according to the report.
Many convenience stores in the market close before midnight. Clerks told KCRG-TV9 they pay close attention to who goes in and out of their stores and react to each dangerous situation differently.
"If it's just a matter of you giving them the money and then they leave, that's one thing. But if it's someone who wants to harm you, you have to be a little more aggressive and defend yourself," Ann Trenor, clerk at Market Express told the station.
Many stores associates use panic buttons or push another to automatically lock the doors to keep a suspicious person out of the store.
Kwik Shop officials told KCRG they will review company policies in the aftermath of Monday's kidnapping and assault.
"We're looking into it internally to address any safety concerns that we would uncover here," said Jeff Parker, president of Kwik Shop, which is operated by The Kroger Co. "On an ongoing basis, we conduct training for our associates on security issues. We encourage them to pay close attention to customers and their surroundings in the store at all times.
"After a situation like this, we most definitely will look at what we have in place today and review whether it's something we need to revise."
Parker said he is trying to contact the family of the victim, Amanda Daniel, 19, to offer help and support.
Kwik Shop is one of five chains owned by Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. Parker said assaults on Kwik Shop employees are rare.
"This is a very unusual situation for us," he said. "When we look at safety for employees or our customers, we take it very seriously."
Security video showed Daniel being escorted out of the store where she was working alone at 4 a.m., Monday, May 17, by a white male holding her neck. Police later apprehended Keith Van Elson Jr., 54, at an apartment where Daniel was found late Monday morning.
The circumstances of the abduction were unusual, according to Chris McGoey, a Los Angeles security consultant and author who has consulted on security plans for other retail chains. Most convenience stores were designed for one-clerk operation, at least until the industry changed to include expanded operations such as restaurants in the past two decades.
Still, "probably 90 percent of the people who work these shifts are male," McGoey told the station.