NM Association Challenges Security Laws

Published in CSP Daily News

Camera, staffing requirements called unconstitutional

SANTA FE, N.M. -- State regulations that require security cameras and other measures protecting convenience store clerks are unconstitutional and should be thrown out, an association of gas-station owners says, according to a report in The Santa Fe New Mexican.

In filings with the state Court of Appeals, the New Mexico Petroleum Marketers Association seeks to overturn regulations that went into effect early this year. The association represents several large oil and gas companies that operate convenience stores.

However, [image-nocss] state Environment Secretary Ron Curry said last week, "Our worker-safety regulations are well-grounded and well within the state's powers to promulgate. These safety regulations have been in place for seven months now, and the industry has reported that their stores have already made the necessary upgrades to comply. We are very disappointed that some in the industry are continuing to fight these important, life-saving guidelines."

In addition to claiming that the state's Environmental Improvement Board lacked authority to enact the rules last year, the petroleum association says the regulations are vague to the point of being meaningless. The regulations require stores keep two clerks on duty during late shifts or install bullet-resistant glass for stores with a single clerk on duty.

Association lawyer Richard Minzner of Albuquerque the members of the association have installed cameras and taken other steps to meet state regulations. While Minzner doesn't expect any stores operated by association members to remove cameras if the regulations are overturned, he said members could decide whether to continue to have two clerks on duty in the future.

"Staffing of employees is something that, on a go-forward basis, the stores might look at continuing or not continuing," Minzner said.

The Environmental Improvement Board enacted the regulations last year after the state Environment Department prepared a study of convenience store violence at the Legislature's request. The study, completed in 2003, collected information from New Mexico State Police as well as police departments in Albuquerque, Farmington, Hobbs, Las Cruces, Santa Fe and Taos.

From 1998 through April 2003, the study found there had been 16 murders, 24 rapes, 37 kidnappings and tens of thousands of other crimes reported at the stores.