By Tova Fruchtman: CNJ staff writer
New Mexico convenience store employees will not have to brave the graveyard shift alone any more.
Starting today, convenience stores must have two employees working between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. or only allow customers access to clerks through safety features such as bulletproof glass under a new regulation passed by the New Mexico Environment Department.
A former nightshift worker at a convenience store said she’s glad to see the change.
“It’s risky. The risk is there,” said Alicia Martinez, who previously worked overnight shifts for a few years in West Texas stores.
She switched to the day shift recently so she can spend more time with her kids, she said. Martinez said she never had to call police during any of her shifts.
The Bovina resident said the workload during the overnightshift doesn’t require two workers, but having another person there makes employees feel less vulnerable to crime.
“If you only have one person, who else is going to do anything?” she said.
There were eight convenience store robberies in Clovis in 2004, according to police statistics, accounting for nearly a third of all the robberies during that span.
Of those eight three occurred between the hours 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.; three between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. and two occurred between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sgt. James Schoeffel, public information officer for the Clovis Police Department and former detective for five years, thinks the new regulations will probably deter some robberies.
“I think that it may make some people think twice, but there’s nothing that is a 100-percent sure thing,” he said.
Having two employees during the late shift could also aid in solving robberies, Schoeffel said.
“Two sets of eyes are also helpful for the potential of catching the subject. If we get two descriptions, we have more information to work with,” he said.
The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board began more than eight months of debate after legislators asked them to examine the issue of deaths associated with convenience-store robberies.
John Goldstein of the New Mexico Environment Department said once the regulation goes into effect the department will enforce it with regular inspections and fines if necessary.
Representatives of Allsup’s Corporate Office did not return several phone calls Friday and Monday in search of their reaction to the costs of enacting these regulations.
Gina Masengill, 20, of Clovis, said she’s excited the plan will be implemented today.
She has worked three nights a week for the past six months at an Allsup’s in Texico. She said working alone scares her because people know she’s by herself. Sometimes, she said, strange people come in and bug her and it’s hard to get them to stop.
“I don’t have to worry (any)more when someone comes in and harasses me,” she said. “Someone else can tell them to leave.”