New Mexico Pushing Retail Safety

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New Mexico Pushing Retail Safety

SANTA FE, N.M -- Every night for eight months Mitch Austin said he was concerned about his safety as he went to work the overnight shift at his local Allsup's convenience store. On Dec. 27, 2001, at about 1:30 a.m., his worst fears were realized when three young men walked into the convenience store where he worked and shot him seven times.

Austin told his story during a press conference Thursday called by Secretary Ron Curry of the Environment Department to announce an investigation by his agency into how to make convenience stores safer for employees. He said his complaints about the lack of security at convenience stores in Taos, N.M., where he worked went unheeded, the Santa Fe (N.M.) Ruidoso News reported.

Senate Joint Memorial, sponsored by Sen. Richard Martinez (D-Taos), calls for the Environment Department's Occupational Health and Safety Bureau to investigate and work to develop strong regulations to protect the lives of convenience store workers, Curry said.

Specifically, the department will look into existing security equipment, employee training, removing signs and advertisements that block sight lines in and out of the store, accessibility of cash on the premises and lighting levels in the parking lots. The investigation will be completed by July 31, with its findings presented no later than Sept. 30.

"Labor statistics reveal that convenience store clerks are the victims of violent attacks at a higher rate than correctional officers," Curry said. "For too long this state has not done enough to protect the people who are providing these vital services.

"That changes today," Curry said.