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DECATUR, Ala. -- Beatrice Osmer circles the convenience store in her car before starting her shift as manager. She wants to make sure no one suspicious is lurking outside. "I just make sure nobody's around," she said.
Katie Eddy, another local convenience store manager, prefers not to focus on the possible danger. "You can't think about it all the time if you want to get any work done," she said.
Working in convenience stores, especially the late-night shifts, carries the chance of meeting a robber face-to-face, especially during recent months, when a string of armed robberies struck Decatur, Ala. Detectives think the convenience store robberies, seven in all, might be related because the robbers wore similar all-black clothing and operated in similar manners. Or they could be copycat crimes, committed after someone noticed through the media the clothing descriptions and methods of the original robbers, according to The Decatur Daily.
Decatur police detectives and the city's Crime Prevention Unit reached out to 30 convenience store managers and employees this week to discuss methods for preventing and handling robberies.
Among the tips police offered were:
* Locking doors while employees stock coolers or work in the back. Four of the seven recent convenience store robberies in Decatur occurred while the employee worked toward the rear of the store.
* Keeping as little money as possible in the register. If clerks have little money, robbers might not take the risk.
* Keeping the store windows clear. Don't raise advertisement signs that block the windows, preventing police patrols from clearly watching the inside.
* Keeping at least two employees on duty. The recent Decatur robberies each occurred while the employee was alone. Six of seven involved a female employee working alone at night, the report said.
* Properly lighting the entire store, both inside and outside. Keep the parking lot, the pumps, the trash container and the store's rear well lit.
* Keeping surveillance equipment maintained and new tapes rolling.
Police also encourage clerks and employees to call 911 as quickly as possible when a robbery occurs.
Decatur detectives said they are making progress in their investigations and warned c-store employees not to give out confidentail store infromation. An encounter between a convenience store clerk and customer last week produced a lead in one of the recent robberies.
The customer accused an employee at USA Gas of handing him the wrong change after he bought some cigarettes. The strange thing, police said, was that the man kept demanding to see video surveillance footage of the transaction. The clerk checked the register tape, which proved she gave him correct change. But the man insisted on seeing video footage. The clerk told the man she would review the video. But he told her not to worry about it and left the store. It appears he was trying to determine whether the store had surveillance equipment, said Decatur police officer Jason Hyder. "Businesses should not reveal such information," he added.