Danville convenience stores nervous, considering moving after Tuesday's homicide

Store owner Tahir Mahmud, 54, shot dead in his store

By Colter Anstaett - Southside Bureau Reporter

DANVILLE, Va. - "This one kind of hits a little too close to home," said convenience store owner Nadeem Hassan, referencing Tuesday's homicide of a Danville convenience store owner.

Hassan owns River Street Mart, about half a mile from the Joy Food Store, where store owner 54-year-old Tahir Mahmud was found shot to death behind the counter around 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Hassan said crime in Danville was already a concern for him, but Mahmud's death is especially concerning.

"It's another store owner. He was just trying to make a living, you know; earn a living for his family," Hassan said.

Friends of Mahmud said Tuesday that he had been attacked at the store before and was actually trying to sell the building so he could move his store to a safer area.

Hassan said for awhile he has also been considering moving, even moving out of the city all together.

Now, he's considering that idea more seriously.

"This incident really makes me want to move a little quicker," Hassan said. "It's one thing to be financially secure and then there's another thing to fear for your life."

Nichole Conway works at the convenience store at the corner of North Main and James Street.

She said she and a co-worker were discussing the homicide Wednesday morning.

"Knowing that the (suspect) is still out here also makes us very nervous," Conway said.

Police have not made any arrests yet or said if any suspects have been identified.

Conway said she now wants to increase security at the store.

"More patrols would be nice. They'd be very helpful," Conway admitted.

Hassan agrees that increased patrols around convenience stores would make him feel safer, but he also understands that there is only so much that the police department can do.

Danville Police Department's crime prevention officer, Cpl. Tim Scearce, emphasizes that there are things businesses, including convenience stores, can do to reduce the chance of becoming a target for criminals.

First and foremost, Scearce says simply be aware.

Constantly pay attention to who is in the business, who is outside, and pay attention to what those people are doing.

Beyond that, the most beneficial thing businesses can do is be more visible.

Remove signs or displays that block windows.

Scearce says that greatly increases the risk factor for people looking to commit a crime at the store and therefore reduces the chances of a crime happening there.

He also recommends having some type of bell or alarm that sounds when people come in and out to alert employees that someone is in the store.

Of course, security cameras are always a good idea.

More specifically though, make sure they are strategically placed and make sure that they and any other security system, such a silent panic alarm, actually work.

Scearce says some businesses go years without checking only to find out that the system doesn't work when it's needed.

 "Who knows. There may be an insurance incentive to keep those things up, so it's worth the investment," Scearce said. "You kind of want that fish bowl. You're in there, but you want to be able to see and be seen."

For businesses, the police department has free booklets that offer crime prevention tips.

To get some of the booklets, contact the department at (434) 779-6510.

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