New Mexico Convenience Store Crime Drops after 2004 Rules

September 3, 2008

Crimes at convenience stores in New Mexico have dropped after the state imposed regulations in 2004 aimed at protecting workers in the stores.

A state Environment Department study of convenience store crimes in six communities found slayings decreased by about 44 percent a year, while assaults and robberies were down by an annual average of about 92 percent and theft and larcenies dropped 89 percent.

The study compared the rates of 14 crimes in Albuquerque, Farmington, Hobbs, Las Cruces, Santa Fe and Taos between 1998 and 2003, before the rules went into effect, and 2005 to 2007, after their adoption. Crimes surveyed included aggravated assault, battery, disturbance, domestic violence, drive-by shootings and rape.

The regulations, adopted by the Environmental Improvement Board, require security cameras and other measures to protect clerks working in convenience stores. Among other things, the regulations stipulate that stores have two clerks working during late shifts or install bullet-resistant glass if a single clerk is on duty.

“This study shows the regulations saved lives and helped reduce crime while providing greater protection from harm for convenience store workers and customers,” Environment Secretary Ron Curry said in a statement last week.

The state Court of Appeals ruled in April 2007 that the board could adopt regulations to protect convenience store workers from violence in the workplace. The board’s authority had been challenged by the New Mexico Petroleum Marketers Association, Indian Capitol Distributing Company, Hookinson Inc. and Ever-Ready Oil Co., which also contended the rules were vague.

Efforts to improve safety for clerks escalated after Elizabeth Garcia, a 26-year-old mother of three, was abducted from a Hobbs convenience store and killed in January 2002 while working alone. The store had no security camera.

The board enacted the regulations after the Environment Department, at the 2003 Legislature’s request, studied violence at convenience stores. That study found 16 killings, 24 rapes, 37 abductions and thousands of other crimes at New Mexico convenience stores from 1998 through April 2003.

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