|Updated: 9/26/2012 9:46 pm
||Published: 9/26/2012 7:09 pm
A recent rash of robberies turned homicide has some convenience store clerks worried.
Saturday night 29-year-old Akiya Egeston lost her life at the EZ Mart in North Little Rock. Several law enforcement agencies are now looking into the possibility the same suspects could be tied to crimes in Jacksonville, Cabot and now Pine Bluff.
Store clerks are more aware now of safety precautions in place to prevent situations like this from happening. Harold’s Shell station on Markham and Barrow Road closes at dark. Other convenience stores and gas stations also close early. Some workers even have guns behind the counter.
Harold's Shell Station has never had any problems with crime but Mike Jobe certainly doesn't want to be targeted. That's why he keeps the lights on 24-7 and surveillance cameras are always watching. "With the surveillance cameras we can look around the building at any time."
But surveillance cameras didn't deter three suspects from robbing, shooting, and killing EZ Mart clerk Akiya Egeston in North Little Rock Saturday night. She was working alone at the time which is something Mike Jobe says the Harold's Shell station doesn't do. "Most of the time there are 3 people here at all times. Sometimes 2, but that’s rare." Jobe won't say what other safety measures are in place, but suggests there may be a panic button to alert police in an emergency. "We've got something in place that can do that."
Besides not keeping a lot of cash behind the counter, there's only so much store employees can do to keep from being robbed.
On January 15th, 2011, at Joe's Grocery & Deli, the owner refused to become a victim. Chris Alley says two men came in and tried to rob the store. "Luckily my father was quick enough with the gun and actually shot them." Alley says that's the one and only time in 38 years someone has dared mess with his family's convenience store. "It's one of those things you keep in the back of your mind, but you just hope you don't have to deal with it."
While police never recommend taking matters into your own hands, Alley says sometimes you just have to protect yourself. "It's not worth losing your life."
According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, some states mandate at least two clerks on duty at a time, but not in Arkansas. At the EZ Mart in North Little Rock where Egeston was shot and killed, the store's new policy is locking the doors after dark and using a drop box in the window for transactions.
The National Association of Convenience Stores says nearly 8% of all robberies are of gas stations or convenience stores.