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In the wake of Sunday's murder of a store clerk in Dorchester — which has mobilized City Hall and left neighbors skittish — Boston police officers are preparing to pay visits to every convenience store in the city to suggest security improvements and offer safety tips.
The initiative, proposed by Mayor Thomas Menino, was discussed at a training seminar in Roxbury on Thursday. Sunday's killing of 71-year-old Geraldo Serrano was the city's second such fatal shooting of a store clerk in three months.
Boston Police Superintendent in Chief Dan Linskey said the two murders do not indicate a rise in cases, but their severity spurred the city's action.
"We're not seeing an uptick," Linskey said. "What we've seen is the commercial robberies we've had have been amazingly violent. I mean, this is a unique thing for us and something we want to take every effort to try to prevent in the future."
More than 100 officers and community workers will go door-to-door to suggest that owners post clear cash-on-hand policies, keep a safe out of sight and upgrade security cameras from VHS tape to more reliable digital models.
Boston Det. Steve Blair led the session and said clerks also need to maintain a safe mental approach.
"I have an old saying — never bring a broom to a gun fight," Blair said. "We don't want store-owners confronting people with guns. We want them to just give the money and live for another day."
Jay Walsh, director of the mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services, spoke positively about the benefits of face-to-face training, though he also expressed concern about whether owners will subsequently train all employees.
"That seems to be what is lacking in a lot of these places," Walsh said, "because there's a pretty high turnover in the staff or there's not the ability for the store-owner to create a program in which their staffs can be trained."
Blair said he hopes the force's community outreach eases some of the multicultural differences at issue.
"A lot of these 'mom and pop' stores come from all different cultures in life — there's language barriers," Blair said. "If we have a language barrier, we're going to have someone there that will speak their language for them and get them to feel more comfortable with us."
City officials are also trying to determine how much money is available to purchase security cameras for businesses without them.
This program aired on February 25, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.
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