Dating back to 1829 (Robert Peele), the police are the public and the public are the police. Law enforcement officers today are merely individuals who focus on policing on a full-time basis, but the community is still responsible in making the city safe. Policing in America has always been a shared responsibility. Unfortunately, that shared responsibility is sometimes forgotten with people thinking they no longer must be engaged, participate, or take responsibility for community safety.
In recent days there has been an armed robbery of a local short-term loan store and a grocery store pharmacy. Those investigations are on-going. Crime continues around us as well in Coffeyville, Independence, Pittsburg . . . Parsons doesn't have a corner on the crime market in our region. But, let's discuss some useful prevention methods - if you have a business then these are worthwhile points for you to review and implement.
Robbery is a crime against your person rather than against your property. If someone breaks into your home or business and takes property from the premises, the crime is called a burglary. However, if you are confronted by an individual on the street or in your home, car or business and force is used or threatened against you, you have become the victim of a robbery.
It is important to remember two things:
- Robbers want one thing - your money or property - and they want it quickly.
- Robbery is a risky business and robbers are usually nervous. You do not want to delay a robbery in any way and increase the potential for violence. Give the robber what he or she wants and do it quickly. Do not risk your life, or another person's life, for property.
- Robberies occur at predictable times. Opening and closing periods are particularly vulnerable times due to low staffing and large amounts of cash on hand. Lunch hours are primary times for the same reasons. Robberies increase during the holiday season due to the increased cash volume and the presence of large crowds that distract and preoccupy store and company personnel.
- Report suspicious activity. If you observe an individual, or occupied vehicle, lingering around your business for a time, or in a manner that makes you suspicious or uncomfortable, write down the license number, color of the car and description of the individual(s) and call the police non-emergency number (620-421-7060). Be sure to inform other employees of your suspicion.
- Good visibility allows employees to be aware of suspicious activities outside the store. It also increases the chance passersby will observe robberies taking place inside the store.
- Keep doors and windows clear. Post any necessary signs to the side, top or bottom of the display windows to allow maximum visibility into and out of the store. This will help customers see your merchandise too.
- Locate the cash register in a central place. Keep it in clear view of the door, with the customer's back to the entrance. The register should be visible from the outside.
- Keep counter displays low. This allows employees to see over the top. You can also rearrange displays to allow surveillance up and down both sides of each aisle.
- Place wide-angle mirrors in strategic locations. This will assist with visibility in blind areas of the store.
- Always make sure interior lighting provide good visibility in the store. Outdoor lighting should be even and directed toward the sides of the building, not outward where glare can create hiding places for robbers.
- Do not keep unnecessary amounts of money in the till. Keep only the amount you will need to conduct normal business and transfer the rest to the bank or a safe. Provide an anchored drop-vault for employees and do not provide them with the key to the safe. Post the fact that you use a drop-vault and, therefore, cannot make change for large denominations.
- Drop all checks and food stamps. Allow customers to see you do this and explain why. Ask customers for exact change or the smallest bills possible.
- During the evening, take even greater precautions. Check to see that outside lights are on and working. In money order sales, collect money and make your drop before printing the money order. Open unused register drawers and tip them for display.
- Make trips to the bank often, varying travel times and routes to reduce predictability. Carry money in a disguised container and have someone accompany you when possible. Do not transport money at the same time every day and do not use the same route every time. If you are making a night deposit, do not approach the deposit unless it is clear of other people. For high risk areas, or when transferring considerable amounts of cash, consider employing an armored car service.
- List some serial numbers from larger bills before going to the bank. Be aware of any suspicious persons lingering near the store. Call 9-1-1 if necessary.
- Drive or walk directly to an open business, police precinct or fire station, if you feel you are being followed while transporting money.
- Prepare marked money. Record non-consecutive serial numbers and series dates of five and ten-dollar bills. Do not use these bills in normal transactions; rather place the money in a till to be included in the money given to the robber. Keep the record of the marked bills in a secure location other than the till or the safe.
- Post store policy that no more than some pre-determined amount (often $25 to $50) is kept in the register at one time and that the store will accept no larger than $20 denominations. When the clerk receives the $20 bill it should be dropped immediately. Never place large bills in the drawer under the tray. Robbers know this practice.
Building Security and Security Devices
- Control access to the building. Keep all doors locked except the main entrance. Ask employees to use the main entrance.
- Install a lock on the back-room door that can be unlocked from the inside. Supply this room with an extra key, a phone, and a panic button. This will enable an employee to summon help if locked in during a robbery.
- Create a sense of territoriality. People should feel they are on your turf when they enter the store and not free to do as they wish.
- Install a door signaling system like a buzzer/bell. This will alert staff of new arrivals.
- Use signs inside and outside the store to emphasize your security policy on limited cash on hand and employee inaccessibility to the safe.
- Silent "hold-up" alarms should be considered. Alarm signaling devices can be installed on the floor and tripped by foot, wired to a money clip in the till, hidden under the counter or inside an office or freezer, among other possibilities.
- Install a "buddy alarm" system. A simple bell or buzzer connected to the neighboring business can be an effective and inexpensive "panic" alarm. It should not be hooked to lights, for a flicker could warn the robber that an alarm has been sent. It should not be loud enough to be heard by the robber. The alarm should be activated only if there is no possibility of detection. A slight movement or sound could trigger a panicking robber into violence.
- Greet each customer. Establish eye contact and remember their general appearance. Good customer service discourages hesitant robbers as well as other thieves. This attention to detail conveys control and puts people on notice they have been observed and can be identified later.
- Place height markings along the vertical frame at the entrance. This allows employees the ability to tell how tall the robber is at a glance so employees can tell at a chance how tall the robber is.
- Consider installing a quality video camera and recorder kept high on the wall but visible. Don't use fake cameras. Robbers know the difference. Have several cameras connected to the system, some visible, some not. Only the managers should have access to the tape.
- Recognize your potential of being held up.
- Check references of prospective employees. Do a background check of previous employers.
- Keep a file on all employees, including their pictures. Past employees know store procedure and where money is kept. They sometimes share this information with others who use it to plan robberies at the store. Pictures of suspects are much more useful than verbal descriptions.
- Re-key locks and alter safe combinations or codes when employees are dismissed for cause.
- Establish clear and consistent policies regarding money in the till. Establish how much money will be kept in the till, what bill denominations employees will accept, how to respond to "suspicious" inquires and how to handle loiterers. All employees should be trained and given a written description of store policy. Stress that their commitment to security procedures will reduce their risk of criminal confrontation and physical harm.
- Staff should never admit customers to premises after closing hours, particularly when the employee is alone.
- Always maintain adequate staff levels. Be especially careful during opening and closing periods, lunch hours and holiday seasons when there is more money on the site and more distractions.
- Store clerks should remain alert to what is going on outside their shop. Carefully observe phone booths, parked cars with people inside and loiterers in the vicinity. Many robbers like to watch and wait for the right opportunity. If a parked car containing several people has been noticed on many occasions, get the license number and a general description of the occupants. Notify the police. A discreet investigation can be made, and no one embarrassed in case the situation is an innocent one. Be sure to notify the individual(s) following your shift of suspicious circumstances.