May 8, 2007
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer
The Hartford city council has drafted an ordinance that would require convenience stores to obtain a permit if they wish to stay open past 10 p.m.
The ordinance targets stores such as bodegas and mini-marts connected to gasoline stations, but not restaurants and larger supermarkets with at least 10,000 square feet of retail space. The smaller stores have become a hotbed for nuisance crimes, such as loitering, and more serious problems, such as narcotics sales and armed robberies, city officials said. The new permit, which would cost $100 a year, would require the stores to have security cameras and alarm systems.
"We get a lot of citizen complaints and neighborhood groups that complain," said city Councilman Calixto Torres, who chairs the council's public safety and quality of life committee. "We want to make sure these stores do everything possible to provide a safe and secure environment for both their employees, clients and the area in their immediate surrounding."
Torres and Councilman James M. Boucher co-sponsored the ordinance, which is scheduled for a public hearing on May 21 and must get committee approval before it is heard by the full council.
Torres said Monday that police data support the need for an ordinance, showing that late-night convenience stores draw an abnormally high number of calls for police services. There are at least two dozen such stores in the city that stay open past 10 p.m.
A draft of the ordinance lays out what is required for stores that want to be open between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. They must have:
A working security camera and silent alarm system.
A safe or other device for securing cash and valuables.
A well-lit parking lot, height measuring devices on the entrance to the store and no tinted windows.
A posted notice that the cash register contains $50 or less and a management policy to actually limit cash on hand.
Windows that are free of obstructions so those outside have a clear view of the cash register and sales transaction area.
At least two employees on duty or a secure, bullet-proof enclosure for employee use.
Those who don't comply with the law could be fined, have their license suspended or be shut down by the police or the city's Department of Health and Human Services.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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