Retail Robbery Prevention Tips and Information

Convenience stores, gas stations, and late-night food retailers are unique commercial properties that are largely cash-based businesses. They are often open late or 24 hours a day, are usually operated by a lone clerk, and are conveniently located for quick in and out shopping. This, unfortunately, makes this business style an attractive target for robbers and thieves.  Robberies can happen to any business at any time of the day or night during operating hours.  A little preparedness can go a long way in preventing and responding to this type of crime.

“Studies have found that the most effective robbery prevention measures include: Cash Control, Elimination of Escape Routes and Visibility.”

Most crimes generally require three things to be present for a crime to occur.

  • The offender
  • Opportunity
  • A victim

We can decrease our chances of becoming a victim of a crime by reducing the opportunity.  We can reduce the opportunity by employing the CPTED principles as highlighted below.

Generally speaking, criminals look for opportunities to commit their crimes with the least possibility of detection or getting caught.

General Protective Measures

  • First impressions are important. Maintain a neat and well-stocked business both inside and out.
  • Greet or assist each customer as they come into the store. If a person appears to be loitering in the store, ask them if they need assistance. By greeting them in a friendly manner they know that you have already noticed them.
  • Keep the interior and exterior of your business well This includes all entrances and exits.
  • Remove signs/displays from windows. This way the police and the general public can see inside and respond to a potential emergency. If the windows are cluttered it is easier for the culprit to remain concealed while committing their crime.
  • Always keep the rear and side doors locked.
  • Install a working, high-definition surveillance system and know how to use it. Place the cameras in strategic locations inside and at the exterior of your business. Advertise the system in your business to act as a deterrent. Check it regularly and keep it in good working order. Understand how to operate the system and how to provide a copy of the surveillance recording to police in the event of an emergency. Time may be of the essence and QUALITY surveillance video is a powerful tool in an investigation and subsequent court proceedings. Do not invest in a video surveillance system that produces mediocre images or video. The higher the resolution, the easier it is to identify the culprit.
  • Keep cash float levels at a minimum. A large amount of cash in the till makes you a target. Extra money should be placed in a drop or timed safe. Advertise that you have a minimum amount of cash in the till.
  • Maintain a record of decoy or “bait” currency to be given to a robber.
  • Avoid routine procedures which can be observed and used to the advantage of would-be robbers.
  • Promote increased activity around your store. Where possible encourage taxis to use your lot, especially during the evening hours of operation. Also where possible, have deliveries made during the evening.
  • Do not open your place of business before or after regular business hours.
  • Call the police if a request is received to open after regular hours.

Making Your Bank Deposits

  • Vary time and routine of bank trips
  • Consider using a “drop” safe that can only be opened by the owner and/or manager
  • Keep cash exposure and cash on-premises as low as possible
  • Keep cheques separate from cash
  • Go directly to the bank to make your deposits
  • If possible, conceal the money, and do not leave deposits or withdrawals unattended in the car
  • Do not go to the bank alone
  • If possible, make deposits during daylight hours

Plan With Your Employees in Case of a Robbery

  • Instruct all trusted employees in the use of the alarm and surveillance system
  • Assign employees different tasks in case of a robbery and if possible have:
    • one to call the police
    • one to make observations about the robber
    • one to protect the evidence at the scene of the crime
    • one to detain witnesses

Know What to do if a Robbery Occurs

  • Remain calm, robbers are usually very excited and could be easily provoked or under the influence of drugs. Try to handle the situation calmly.
  • Take no action that would jeopardize the safety of you, your employees, or your customers.
  • Do not attempt to physically subdue the robber. You don’t know if or what type of concealed weapon they might have. They may be armed and may harm you or others if you do not cooperate, especially if under the influence of any intoxicating substances.
  • Do not argue. Obey the robber’s instructions to the best of your ability but do not volunteer to do anything that they do not ask.
  • Take a good look at the suspect and immediately note any details that may be useful to police as their build, facial features, and clothing. Remember to watch the height marker as they leave the store.
  • Keep the holdup note if one is used by the robber. Refrain from handling it or handle it as little as possible.
  • Try to remember anything or place the robber touched so the police can check for fingerprints later.
  • If possible, watch for the escape route of the robber and if a vehicle is involved, try to note its description and licence plate number.

Know What to do Immediately After a Robbery

  • As soon as the robber leaves the premises quickly lock all the doors. This prevents the robber from getting back into the store and preserves evidence for the police.
  • Call the police immediately as soon as robbers leave the premises and BEFORE you call anyone else, such as the store manager/owner. The few minutes following a robbery are crucial in assisting police in the apprehension of the criminal.
  • Tell the dispatcher the name and exact location of your business, the description of the robber(s), the direction of travel, and whether or not you observed any weapons. Do not hang up unless the police dispatcher has told you to do so.
  • Protect the scene of the crime and stop others from disturbing the scene.
  • Do not touch any articles that may have been touched or left by the robbers.
  • Hold all witnesses until the police arrive. If any witnesses indicate they must leave, try and get their contact information to pass on to the police. Do not discuss the robbery with any of the witnesses, only with the police. Be factual.
  • Lock the doors and allow no one in except the police.
  • Do not trust memory, jot down all information immediately.

Know How to Identify a Robber to the Police

  • Practice identification with co-workers.
  • Install a height strip on the door frame of the entrance.
  • Try to notice abnormalities, speech problems, or scars.
  • Notice type of build, or estimate weight.
  • Notice type and colour of clothing worn.
  • Observe the direction in which suspects leave and try to get a description of the vehicle from any witnesses and write down the licence number.
  • Be able to describe the size, type, and colour of guns or any other weapons used in the robbery.

Surveillance and Security Cameras (aka Digital Video Recordings DVR)

We highly recommend that all retail businesses use a digital video recording (DVR) system to monitor and record customers. The use of video and photographs of suspects is highly useful in investigations and is often a deterrent.

The LaSalle Police Service cannot recommend a specific type or supplier however, we do suggest installing the highest quality system you can afford.

We also strongly suggest that you and your employees know how to operate the system in the event of an emergency. Time is often of the essence. Part of the decision process should be cloud-based storage vs. local storage. With cloud-based storage, if a robber takes the surveillance system, the footage would still be captured off-site and available to assist in the ensuing investigation. If it is stored locally, the footage stays on the system. A combined storage system stores the footage locally and via the cloud.

If you would like assistance in analyzing the safety and security features of your business, please contact Sr. Constable Terry Seguin at 519 969-5210 ext 2031 or at tseguin@lasallepolice.ca