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The Indiana General Assembly is again considering “Marcy’s Law,” which would require bullet resistant barriers for all convenience stores and gas stations in the state. The law is in line with existing OSHA ballistic security recommendations, which advise that stores keeping extended hours in high-crime areas either schedule two workers for high-risk shifts, or install a bullet resistant barrier protecting the cash register and clerk.
But industry insiders are lukewarm about these laws. Total Security Solutions CEO Jim Richards–who has decades of experience with bullet resistant security–explains: “People think we’d be all for it, but in truth, we’ve never seen a spike in business after one of these laws is put into effect.” Jim sees two major flaws in these measures: One is a failure to appreciate the expense of implementation, and the other is a misunderstanding about the narrow scope of crime trend statistics.
The Cost of Implementing Marcy’s Law
Quite clearly, laws mandating the installation of ballistic barriers have a major impact on the bottom line for convenience store owners. Lobbying groups, such as the Indiana Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, point out that Marcy’s Law, in essence, obliges store owners to make a $25,000 to $30,000 security investment (the cost of adding a full bullet resistant retrofit to an existing convenience store or gas station).
Few convenience store operators can afford this. “The fact of the matter is,” Jim notes, “many of these owners hardly break even. That’s why most of the corporate oil companies have gotten out of the convenience store/gas station business. Those stations are almost always privately owned now, and it’s a very tough market with low margins, especially in the high-risk urban core.”
Owners can only make a $30,000 security investment if they believe that investment will pay back out, either in increased traffic or increased hours of operation–neither of which is likely to surge just because they’ve installed a new bullet resistant system.
What’s much more common, in Jim’s experience, is either for the store to close down entirely, or to significantly change their operating procedures. In some cases, that might mean ceasing night-time operation. In others, the owners reinforce several windows with sheets of bullet resistant glass, install a bullet resistant passer or drawer in the exterior block wall, and lock the building down at sundown. They then conduct all business through this ad hoc bullet resistant barrier. It’s secure, and significantly less expensive than a full retrofit–but also cumbersome, and can make a neighborhood feel like an entrenched war zone, straining relations with local residents.
In either case, this added expense and strain on operations can certainly transform a low-margin business into a no-margin business–quite possibly for no reason at all.
All Liquor Store Robberies Are Local
Zionsville, Indiana at 7:45pm on a Sunday is not downtown Indianapolis on a Saturday night or industrial Gary at 2am. Yes, bullet proof barriers keep workers safe–and, more importantly, bullet proof barriers are a potent deterrent to would-be bandits.
But crime is very localized. In the grande scheme of things, a statewide mandate for a local problem is not a very efficient way to minimize harm.
In the end, Jim points out, “We don’t have enough information to know if laws like these really work. The whole idea of putting the law in place is to reduce the number of robberies, but I don’t know what the total numbers are, or if there’s a reduction that takes place after these laws are put into place. That’s what should really matter, here, if crimes are being prevented and lives protected.”
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