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Macon-Bibb County looks to limit food mart hours to deter crime at stores

If approved, a new ordinance would require food and vice marts to close between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

MACON, Ga. — If you're looking for late night snacks in Macon-Bibb County, your options could soon slim down.

That's if a new ordinance passes in the county commission Tuesday. Macon-Bibb Mayor Lester Miller plans to ask commissioners to limit food mart and vice mart hours, requiring them to close between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

It comes after three gun-related deaths in just over a month at a Houston Avenue food mart.

"There's been a lot of crime surrounding the stores, both while they're open and sometimes while they're closed," Mayor Miller said.

He says that's why they need to act. The mayor says the county has studied peak places and times for crime countywide.

"We've been working with the sheriff's office and other places to get all the data concerning the crime," Mayor Miller said. "While the sheriff is the chief constitutional officer in charge of combatting crime in Macon-Bibb County, as legislators, we also have to do our part, and that's funding as well as policy."

The county defines food marts as stores less than 10,000 square feet, and selling about 85% of food and non-alcoholic products. They also need to sell several fresh food options. 

Mayor Miller says some may be worried about limiting the hours, but he says it's best to avoid going to the store late at night. He suggests a late-night drugstore if you really need something. The ordinance doesn't affect them.

"There are several convenience stores right off the interstate that have the gasoline, that are very safe, that have a lot less trouble. But other than that, people need to plan ahead," Miller said.

Employees at food and vice marts can be on the premises during the limited hours. They would just have to lock the doors. Customers and other people are not allowed inside. Mayor Miller says if store owners break the rules, there could be fines up to $1,000. On the second offense, you could face jail time too.

At least seven commissioners, plus the mayor, have already signed on as sponsors for the ordinance. If it passes, it would go into effect next month.

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