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Mesa, Ariz., says some stores are too convenient for criminals

Inside a covenience store

Steve Chiotakis: The city council of Mesa, Ariz. is about to pass an ordinance requiring convenience store owners to ratchet up security. That's bad news for beer thieves.

But as Peter O'Dowd from station KJZZ in Phoenix reports, the business community doesn't like it much either.


Peter O'Dowd: Consider Michael Rahall one of those concerned business owners.

Michael Rahall: Thanks once more and have a good weekend, Chuck.

Customer: You're welcome.

Rahall runs Fiesta Liquors in Mesa. His customers buy milk, candy and tortillas, and, of course, he sells all sorts of alcohol. The new law would require some stores to clear their windows so police officers can see inside. For Rahall, that would mean taking down row after row of whiskey and vodka bottles stacked against the glass.

Rahall: Where do we put it? If we lose half our inventory, we might as well close our doors.

The truth is, Fiesta Liquors probably won't have to worry. The ordinance applies to stores with an average of 30 police calls a year. Rahall says he rarely calls the cops. It's more likely to affect big chains like Circle K, 7-Eleven and Quick Trip. About 40 of those stores in Mesa meet the threshold. Those in question may have to add more cameras, trim overgrown bushes or install lighting around a dumpster.

Scott Somers: It's going to certainly cost them some money. But on the other hand, they have a crime problem.

Scott Somers is Mesa's vice mayor. He says some stores that logged more than 200 police calls a year were literally right next door to comparable stores that hardly ever called police.

Somers: That's was what was fascinating about it. It really does come down to how the stores are operated and the type of environment they have around them -- how they're designed.

Somers says the city has tried for almost three years to pass this law. Tim McCabe is a big reason it's taken so long. He's the president of the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance. The group loudly criticized an early version that applied to all 150 or so convenience stores in the city of Mesa. McCabe says this new law would be better. But he still doesn't like the idea of regulating stores that are struggling in this economy.

Tim McCabe: What does one city ordinance lead to? What's next?

The city council could vote as early as Thursday. Both sides expect the ordinance to pass.

In Mesa, Ariz., I'm Peter O'Dowd for Marketplace.

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