Police to up patrols after string of convenience store attacks

The National Police Agency on Monday instructed units to strengthen contact with convenience stores under their jurisdiction after a customer stabbed a clerk to death, in the latest of what has been a string of violent attacks.

Police units have also been directed to improve communication with citizens via a hotline system, as well as increase patrols around convenience stores under their jurisdiction to see if clerks working the night shift require any assistance.

On Sunday, a clerk at a convenience store in Taoyuan was stabbed to death by a male customer after he asked the customer to wear a face mask. Face masks are mandatory inside most public places, including convenience stores, under current COVID-19 rules.

The man, identified only by his surname Chiang (?) entered the store in the city's Guishan District without wearing a mask early Sunday.

After a clerk, surnamed Tsai (?), requested that Chiang put on a mask, Chiang became enraged and left the store, according to police.

Not long after, the 41-year-old Chiang, now wearing a mask, returned to the store and started arguing with Tsai. Chiang then threw his face mask at the 30-year-old Tsai, and left for a second time.

Chiang returned to the store later for a third time and asked to see Tsai, who he then stabbed to death with a knife, according to police.

Tsai's death is just the latest in a recent string of violent attacks against convenience store workers triggered by disputes over mask wearing.

Last month, a clerk working the night shift at a convenience store in Taichung suffered broken ribs after he was assaulted by a drunken male customer who the clerk had asked to wear a mask.

This followed on from an attack in September in which a 50-year-old man attempted to gouge a young female clerk's eyes out after she requested that he wear a mask.

In the wake of the incidents, the ruling and opposition legislative caucuses have both called for an increased police presence and measures to ensure social order while complying with COVID-19 prevention guidelines.

Ruling Democratic Progressive Party legislative caucus whip Liu Shyh-fang (???) called on the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) to create a mechanism that would allow clerks to report on those who refuse to comply with the current mask mandate so that fines can be issued.

Liu also called on local governments to increase police patrols near convenience stores.

Opposition Kuomintang legislative caucus whip Fai Hong-tai (???) said the latest incident also highlighted a severe shortage of community social workers, adding that he hoped local governments could increase the police's presence in communities.

While the CECC thanked convenience store clerks for their contributions to epidemic prevention, they said clerks should prioritize their personal safety.

To this end, the CECC said clerks should use notices or broadcasts instead of verbal warnings when trying to persuade customers to wear face masks, in order to reduce the risk of direct conflict with customers.

On Monday, the convenience store chain Hi-Life announced it would discontinue advocating for a mask mandate and that it would no longer ask clerks to remind customers to wear masks with immediate effect.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel