Code changes in Tucker target convenience stores

DeKalb County Police investigate a Tuesday morning shooting at the Valero gas station located at 5616 Redan Road in unincorporated Stone Mountain that left one man in critical condition. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Tucker, GA — Major crimes at convenience stores have reached a fever pitch, with DeKalb County and surrounding municipalities writing new code to deter it. 

The city of Tucker put a temporary moratorium on new convenience stores in June, and is now proposing regulating video gambling machines and requiring video surveillance.  

Crime data collected during 2021 and 2022 at Tucker convenience stores shows dozens of crimes including one homicide, according to the city. 

The AJC reported DeKalb Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson is supporting a mandate to use video surveillance at convenience stores to reduce criminal activity. 

Community Development Director Courtney Smith said Tucker is working closely with DeKalb County to mirror an ordinance aiming to reduce crime, protect customers and employees and assist police with investigations when footage is provided to law enforcement. Smith presented the first read of an amendment to city code at the Tucker City Council meeting on Aug. 8. 

“We don’t want to be the jurisdiction nearest where it’s being enforced, and we’re not enforcing it,” said Mayor Frank Auman. 

If it passes City Council, the code will require one camera dedicated to each registered and/or check-out stand, entrance/exit, each pump, loading dock and parking lot. High resolution, color cameras are to be installed at the owner’s expense by Jan. 1, 2023. 

City Council‘s discussion included cost to owners and the purpose behind the code. 

“Are we trying to capture people committing the crimes, or are we trying to be a deterrent?” asked Councilmember Alexis Weaver. 

Additional city codes are changing

Tucker City Council made strides to revise other code and its city charter at the Aug. 8 meeting including video gaming machines and parking surfaces.  

City Attorney Ted Baggett said for years coin-operated gaming machines were exempt from local regulation under state law, but recent amendments to the code allow regulation by local governments. The state Constitution bans gambling with the exception of the state lottery for education.

An ordinance would “max out local authority” for about 32 convenience stores, said Baggett. The city is proposing locations be licensed and limited to six machines. Failure to comply could cost the establishment a revoked license to sell alcohol, as well as run the machines. 

“This is part of the continuing conversation we had last month about convenience stores and trying to make sure we’re ensuring a safe environment. This is essentially an exercise in the city’s police power,” said Baggett.    

City Council unanimously approved an amendment to route denied occupational tax certificates through the Zoning Board of Appeals if the denial is based on zoning. The amendment also allows the city to notify business owners of a denial, revocation or suspension by email and “verifiable means” said Baggett. 

Councilmembers also heard a proposal to amend the city’s code on pervious pavers. 

Two resolutions were adopted into the city charter by consent, the practice of taking a vote without discussion. 

First, City Attorney Bagget was approved to serve as prosecuting attorney. After Baggett was approved by City Council in May, the city settled with former prosecutor Brian Anderson, creating a vacancy. 

Second, a resolution was approved to create employee classification and a payscale. Many staff members are contractors through Jacobs Engineering, but anticipated growth within Tucker demands the hiring of more employees. The code is intended to preserve policymaking authority and oversight in City Council without undermining the discretion of the city manager, according to a memo. 

In other news:

– Tucker Parks and Recreation was approved by City Council for the purchase of two 15-passenger vans in the amount of $101,000. 

– Finance Director Beverly Ragland said the city is awaiting a second tranche of ARPA funds for $6.7 million. Communications Director Sonja Szbuski did not have an immediate answer about how the money will be spent. 

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