JACKSON — Some Jackson officials are questioning whether a new city law on convenience store security is enforceable, and some store owners say the law will unreasonably increase their costs of doing business.
The city council voted last month to require each 24-hour convenience store to have a security guard on duty from midnight to 5 a.m. Convenience stores that aren’t open around the clock have to file a security plan within 100 days.
The law is supposed to take effect in the next couple of weeks.
Council president Frank Bluntson told The Clarion-Ledger the law can’t be enforced because it doesn’t specify penalties.
“It’s not going to take effect because there wasn’t any teeth in it,” Bluntson said.
But Councilman Kenneth Stokes said police should enforce the law and judges should assess fines.
“Any time you pass a municipal law, enforcement is through the Police Department, unless there’s other directions,” Stokes said. “That’s municipal law 101.”
The new rules were written after several shootings at Jackson convenience stores, including the July 26 slaying of a store clerk during an armed robbery.
A security plan could include details such as whether the store has bullet-proof glass or cameras. Stores that only need to file a plan get 100 days to do so, but there’s no grace period for any shop required to hire a guard.
Stokes said the city held a year’s worth of public hearings to gather input on the ordinance and provide advance warning.
Store owners say the cost of hiring private security is unreasonable.
Philip Chamblee, director of the Mississippi Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores Association, said it could cost $23,000 or more a year for a convenience store to hire a security guard.
Chamblee called it an undue burden during a bad economy and said it singles out convenience stores.
Because the law only applies to stores that are open 24 hours, some are considering adjusting their hours to avoid the cost.
“It’s my understanding some of them have already started closing early to avoid having security guards,” said Councilman Tony Yarber.