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City residents help late-night workers feel safe

For three consecutive school years, Trista Evanitcka spent her homework-free hours working behind the counter of Circle K at 425 Wooster St.

Although she often worked late into the night and early morning, her strong relationship with routine customers and the four security cameras monitoring all activity inside the store typically made her feel safe and protected.

But during one of Evanitcka’s never-ending midnight shifts that stretched until 8 a.m., an encounter with an unreasonable customer would change her mind about unfamiliar faces – and the safety of her workplace.

‘A man I didn’t know walked into the store one night and started talking to me, like most of the customers do,’ Evanitcka said. ‘I didn’t think anything of it until he left and then came back in and pinned me against the soda machine.”

Evanitcka said the man tried kissing her while holding her against her will. But luckily for the Circle K associate, one of her regular customers happened to be in the store at the same time – and responded quickly enough to come to her rescue.

‘[My regular] started yelling at the guy to get out now when he saw what happened and he ended up staying with me until daylight broke,’ Evanitcka said. ‘We have shady characters that come in from time to time, but the regulars make it so I don’t feel unsafe.” ‘ ‘ ‘

Although Evanitcka relies on her regular customers to ease any trepidation she might experience on the job, most convenience stores and gas stations are equipped with video cameras monitoring both the inside and outside of the store in order to ensure their clerks protection.

But as seen by the 16 murders that have taken place as a result of holdups in gas stations and stores in Toledo since 1983 – including last month’s murder of BP gas attendant Matthew Dugan in West Toledo – video cameras do not always guarantee an employee’s safety.

‘I don’t think there is anything you can do to make yourself completely safe, but video cameras can at least be used to identify a [culprit],’ Campus Quarters co-owner Lauren Tobul said. ‘It might make the employees feel safer, but

might not deter someone from robbing.”

Campus Quarters, which serves as both a bar and a carryout convenience store, was robbed at gunpoint roughly two Decembers ago, Tobul said. Although the clerk on duty was uninjured, $206, a pack of cigarettes and an 18 pack of beer were taken from the store around 7:30 p.m. by a 21-year-old male staying at the Best Western Inn right next door.’ ‘ ‘

‘Since he asked for [cigarettes] our clerk asked for his ID because we always check,’ Tobul said. ‘Instead of his ID, he pulled a gun.’

But because of the clerk’s quick and calm response, he was later able to identify the suspect – who is currently in jail and paying back restitution to the owners of Campus Quarters.

Since the robbery, Tobul and Quarters co-owner Joe Kostelnik have made it a priority to train all their employees for similar situations. Like Circle K, Campus Quarters instructs their clerks to hand over money asked for, wait until the assailant is gone and lock the door before calling the police.

‘Trying to save a case of beer [from being stolen] is not worth [employees’] lives or safety,’ Tobul said. ‘We try not to encourage anyone to be a hero.’

And though the carryout is equipped with four security cameras placed throughout the aisles and behind the counter, Tobul and Kostelnik have gone the extra mile in order to ensure their employees feel safe at work.

‘We talked with all our employees who were concerned about their shifts and offered to come in and sit with them when they feel unsafe,’ Tobul said. ‘Because everyone has a good relationship here, we all look out for each other, which is the best way to protect a place.’

But regardless of the extra measures taken by Campus Quarters to ensure their employees safety, Bowling Green Police Lt. Tony Hetrick said the police should always be contacted when a robbery or shooting occurs.

‘I’ve not seen any murders [as a result of a holdup] since I’ve been here, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen,’ Hetrick said.

According to Hetrick, six armed robberies have occurred at cash advance banks in Bowling Green, as well as one at the BP Station on 1670 E. Wooster St. in the last year.

‘The risk [of getting caught for robbery] is higher here because it is harder to get away on foot due to the size of the town,’ Hetrick said. ‘But it still happens and I urge anyone who suspects anything is up to call the police immediately if it does.”

And while there is no guarantee when it comes to the safety of night-shift workers at convenience stores and gas stations, Evanitcka says the residents living in or around Bowling Green keep her reassured when suspicious customers enter Circle K.

‘Between the regular customers and the fact that Wooster is well patrolled by police, I normally feel pretty protected at work,’ Evanitcka said. ‘The fact is, I never really feel unsafe, I just feel that people can sometimes be sketchy.’

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