Chesterton Tribune

State and convenience store group partner to reduce late night retail store violence

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A major association of convenience store operators in the late-night retail industry has agreed to participate in the Indiana Department of Labor’s INSafe program to reduce late-night retail workplace violence.

Joining in the agreement are the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (IPCA).

Goals of the agreement:

•DOL will provide expertise in developing information on the recognition and prevention of workplace hazards, and provide expertise in developing ways of communicating such information to the IPCA and its members. DOL will speak, exhibit, or appear at IPCA conferences, meetings and major industry trade shows as available and requested.

•The DOL will share information and statistics, as determined to be appropriate by the Director of INSafe, to advance the goal of providing more relevant information and reducing injuries, illnesses and fatalities in the workplace (e.g., sharing fatality/injury and illness data which are generally unavailable to the public; these statistics may provide the basis for future prevention-based research).

•INSafe will consult with select member companies of the IPCA to assist with the development and delivery of group-wide occupational safety and health outreach and training programs.

•IPCA will share information with DOL personnel and industry safety and health professionals regarding IPCA best practices or effective approaches and publicize results through outreach by IPCA and through DOL events, print media, and websites.

•IPCA will promote and encourage member company participation in INSafe programs such as the OSHA Consultation Program and its INSHARP Program.

•INSafe will also provide strategic industrial hygiene and safety assistance to IPCA and its participants upon request. This work will be used to develop a common exposure picture for similar work application with member companies.

This agreement is the result of DOL Commissioner Lori Torres’s efforts to bring all interested parties together as the Late Night Retail Working Group to address repeated violent injuries and fatalities at convenience stores throughout the state.

The working group, founded by DOL with the participation of IPCA, the Indiana Grocery and Convenience Store Association, the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers, and the Indiana State Police, is currently producing a report that will summarize the working group’s findings and recommendations for store owners in Indiana. This report, set to be released in May, will document the best available research on late-night retail safety and security, and review various legislative and voluntary actions across the country to be models for stores in Indiana.

The group also includes a representative from the families and victims of recent late-night retail workplace violence.

DOL, Indiana Grocery and Convenience Store Association, and Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers are also discussing possible partnership agreements.

More information about this alliance, including the agreement that was signed March 28, can be found at

Late-Night Retail

Violence in Duneland

Over the last 13 years, two clerks working late-night shifts—both of them at Luke Oil stores—have been murdered on the job in Duneland.

On Aug. 10, 1999, Chesterton High School graduate Kathryn Pokorny, 18, was shot and killed at the old Luke Oil store at the southwest corner of the intersection of U.S. Highway 6 and Meridian Road in Liberty Township. She was working alone at the time. Three months later, in November 1999, Region Deon Slater was charged with her murder, criminal deviate conduct, and robbery. In 2001, Slater pleaded guilty to all charges in exchange for the state’s withdrawing its request for the death penalty. Slater was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Several years later that Luke Oil store was demolished and the site remains vacant.

On Dec. 19, 2008, Barbara Heckman, 42, was bludgeoned to death with a mini sledge hammer at the Luke Oil store at the northeast corner of U.S. 6 and Meridian Road. She too was working alone. Twelve hours later, Bruce Guess, 18, and Steven Jorden, 19, both of Liberty Township, had been taken into custody. Guess—who admitted being the one who actually struck Heckman with the sledge hammer in the course of a robbery—was sentenced to 85 years, the maximum term possible. Jorden was sentenced to 57 years, eight years shy of the maximum possible.

Two months after Pokorny’s murder, the Porter County Sheriff’s Police announced that it was extending what it called a “survivability seminar” originally designed for banks in unincorporated county to convenience stores. Dave Lain—now Sheriff, then Porter County Deputy Chief—noted at the time of the announcement that, “like banks, convenience stores have their own set of risks. It’s an inherently riskier set of risks than (those of other) businesses.”

Among other things, convenience stories usually employ no more than two clerks—or only one—per shift. They also operate late into the night or all night and are often located at remote or isolated sites and by their nature are quick to enter and exit. And they are ready sources of cash.


Posted 4/23/2012