Crime Prevention Laws Target Hartford, Conn., Houston C-stores

NEW YORK -- Earlier this week, Hartford, Conn.'s, extended hours convenience store ordinance went into effect, in an effort to put a stop to late-night violence at some service stations, local television station NBC30 reported.

Under the ordinance, small- and medium-sized convenience stores and gas stations operating between 11:30 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. will have to adhere to certain community concerns and enhanced security measures, including scheduling two employees to work in the store overnight or installing a secure safety enclosure, according to the report.

To date, 22 licensed stores are in compliance with the requirements. Those stores not in compliance and not licensed will not be allowed to stay open after 11:30 p.m., the report stated. Many stores chose to close before 11:30 p.m. rather than comply with the new requirements, according to the report.

Similarly, the Houston City Council is proposing that c-store owners in the area have to register their businesses with the city and install cameras, drop safes and panic buttons to prevent crimes, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The council's Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee voted earlier this week to recommend the ordinance to the full council, where it could be adopted within a month.

"This is a giant leap," Zaf Tahir, a Houston convenience store owner and chair of Mayor Bill White's Task Force on Convenience Store Security, told the newspaper. "Now, we have this industry on a path to a very safe and secure environment."

However, he noted that the ordinance would not be a quick-fix for all crime.

"This ordinance takes care of the training and of things that can be done at the stores," he said. "It needs to be coupled with increased presence of law enforcement."

The Houston proposal would require c-stores to have a minimum of two color digital surveillance cameras, a drop safe for cash deposits and a panic button to alert a security company or police of a crime in progress, the report stated. Store owners would have until 2010 to comply with the ordinance, which could cost them an average of $1,400, according to assistant police chief, John Trevino.

Other rules that would go into effect within three months of the ordinance's enforcement include training; posting "No loitering" and "No trespassing" signs along with height strips on doors; and removal of obstructions from windows and doors for increased visibility inside the store, according to the report.

"I don't think most of these things will be particularly burdensome," Councilwoman Melissa Noriega, chairwoman of the council's Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, told the Chronicle.