Fethik “Tony” Belhouane might be safer on the job if he were a police officer or firefighter. As the manager of a corner grocery, he faces danger every time the door swings open, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Most are customers, of course–a child with a sweet tooth or a neighborhood regular stopping in for a cold drink and a pack of smokes. But all it takes is one visitor with a gun who wants something else to change the odds on whether Belhouane will return to his wife and two toddlers at the end of a long day. Belhouane learned the hard way, when he narrowly escaped the fate of two people murdered in December at his Scranton Road store.
“I’m always on guard,” Belhouane said. “It’s a very hard job and very dangerous.” Last week, a robbery at another West Side store named Tony’s Deli ended in the fatal shooting of its owner. It was a reminder of just how dangerous the job can be. Antonios “Tony” Elbkessini, 48, was the fourth worker or customer killed in a convenience store robbery in Cleveland in six months. Convenience store robberies are a longstanding problem in urban areas across the country, making up 6.2 percent of all robberies in 2003. They rank among the most dangerous places to work in America. Of the 632 on-the-job fatalities due to homicides in 2003, more than one in 10 occurred in convenience stores or gas stations with convenience stores, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics.