P.G. backs off store security bill after businesses balk

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Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly

The Prince George's County Council is re-examining legislation meant to increase safety at convenience stores and gas stations after store owners took issue with some of the bill's more costly provisions.

The proposal would have forced convenience stores and gas stations that are open between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. to install high-resolution digital security cameras and drop safes, never carry more than $75 in the cash register and register with the county. Stores also would have had to put their employees through a training program that includes cash handling and what to do in the event of a robbery.

Owners were worried about the cost of installing cameras and implementing a training program for every new employee, as well as the inconvenience of having a maximum amount of money that can be kept in the register.

"We agreed that we would hold off on this bill at this time," said Councilman Eric Olson, D-College Park, who introduced the bill with Councilman Mel Franklin, D-Upper Marlboro. Olson noted that he expected the pair to work with the bill's critics to have a new proposal ready for next year.

The two sides have already met. While the council members

raised the maximum cash register amount, removed a silent alarm system requirement and got the county police department to offer to produce training videos that employees could watch online, the bill still proved to be too much for small-business advocates.

Convenience stores and gas stations are at a high risk for crime largely because of their late hours. About 27 percent of this year's commercial robberies through last month occurred between midnight and 7 a.m., according to the police department.

About 600 stores in the county stay open after midnight, the police said. Had the bill passed, those store owners would have been given a year to meet the new security requirements before being hit with a fine of $500 per offense.

Kirk McCauley, director of member relations for the Washington, Maryland, Delaware Service Station and Automotive Repair Association, said small-business owners and the council could probably find enough common ground to move forward with something in the near future.

"All our goals are the same -- keep our employees safe, keep the public safe," he said.

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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Matt Connolly

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner