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Convenience stores are a top target for crime. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, c-store/gas station robberies numbered nearly 22,000 in 2010-2011. Yikes!
We’ve all seen videos of c-store owners fighting back, willing to sacrifice themselves not to let the bad guy get away. That is not a good plan. Take matters into your own hands before a robbery attempt happens. That is the best way to keep everyone safe.
Store owners can apply these effective strategies to minimize risk:
- Tighten cash-handling measures. Maintain minimal bills in the cash register. Set up a system so that $20 bills are automatically dropped right into a safe, not the register. Cash registers with little cash in them are less-likely targets. Also, remove money from the store at regular intervals.
- Beef up security. Many stores offer free coffee/fountain drinks to police and firefighters. The idea is that these uniform officers will be more likely to stop in the store. If your local team is uncomfortable with the ethics behind taking a freebie, another strategy is to regularly drop off coupons good for a free beverage at the police station. Presenting a coupon doesn’t blur the line of professionalism.
- Stay bright. A well-lit store, inside and out, leaves little opportunity for a burglar to hide out. Eliminate any dark spots where someone can lurk outside and watch the store.
- Maximize visibility. Remove any items that prevent employees from easily seeing out — and those outside from easily seeing into the store. If it feels like a robber would be “on stage,” you’ve achieved the right effect. The more unobstructed the window, the less likely the store will be a target.
- Install surveillance. Make it clear that a video is recording to deter crime. Research shows robbers tend to consider whether there will be a witness before committing a crime. Video cameras send the message that they won’t get away unnoticed.
Train for an Incident
Review with employees how to react if they are ever faced with a burglary or a robbery. There is a difference in the terms. A burglary is the intent to break into a building with the intent to commit a crime. A robbery infers both theft and a form of violence.
In the case of a burglary, employees should secure the scene, lock all the doors, not allow customers inside and call the police. During robberies, employees should remain calm and comply with demands. Instruct employees to focus on anything about the appearance and dress of the robber, as well as any weapons used. As soon as it’s safe, employees should activate the panic button and call 911. Then, lock the doors and not touch anything.
While it’s fresh in their mind, employees should document all vital information. This will be required for both the police and your insurance company.
Most importantly, reemphasize to employees not to take things into their own hands. No matter how frustrating it is to incur a robbery, keeping everyone safe has to be the top priority.
Terry Lambert is an instructor for the CBC Learning Center and a c-store owner.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner.