Convenience stores have always been tempting targets for armed thieves. This makes them dangerous places for employees to work, and local governments are becoming increasingly involved in keeping them safe. Houston and Dallas are two Texas cities with recently implemented convenience store security ordinances . Are such ordinances effective? New Mexico saw convenience store murders drop by 44%, and robberies drop by 91% between 2005 and 2007 after the state enacted new regulations. Their success is why we’re seeing similar ordinances spreading across the country.

This article outlines the security steps that will increase the safety of your convenience store employees and reduce theft. Many of the tips here may become ordinance in your city, so be aware and consider implementing them ahead of the law.

>> Cash Control
>> Employee Security Education
>> Surveillance Cameras and Silent Alarms
>> Securing the Internal Environment
>> Securing the External Environment
>> More Security Resources

>> Cash Control
Cash. It’s what lures robbers in the first place. Strong cash-handling policies along with good signage can greatly reduce rates of robbery. One study found that robbery rates drop by 80% when potential robbers know that there’s $50 or less in the cash register.

1) Install a Drop Safe
Install a drop safe and implement cash drop procedures with your employees. Be sure that your employees understand that the procedures are in place to protect them, not just the company’s money.

2) Post Cash-Amount Signage
Advertise to everyone who walks in your store that there’s only $30 or less in your cash register after dark, and that the employees don’t have the keys to the safe.

>> Employee Security Education
How employees behave has enormous impact on whether your store is robbed AND on the extent of injury in the instances that they are robbed.

3) Provide Annual Security Training
Studies have shown that the likelihood of violence is 49% higher when employees resist a robber. Further, when employees become familiar with your existing security measures they are not as likely to participate in "inside" robbery attempts. Look for local security training programs and video resources.

>> Surveillance Cameras and Silent Alarms
Technology can play a large role in preventing and prosecuting robberies at your convenience store.

4) Install Silent Panic and Holdup Alarms
These types of alarms protect your employees in potentially violent robbery situations. They are not useful in preventing robberies but can help to reduce the impact of a robbery in process. Provide proper training on the usage of silent alarms so that employees know how to safely use them.

5) Install CCTV Live Surveillance Cameras
Highly visible cameras can have a powerful impact on potential robbers. Especially if they know that the cameras are monitored by live security professionals. Consider first and foremost a live surveillance CCTV system for robbery prevention and instant robbery response. Having cameras properly aimed at the door and at the register can also provide valuable after-the-fact images for use in court.

>> Securing the Internal Environment
There are a number of measures you can take inside of your store that are proven to reduce the frequency and impact of robberies. Here are several points to consider.

6) Remove Signage From Windows
Visibility in and out of a convenience store plays an enormous role on the psychological comfort of the would-be robber. If robbers know they can be seen from the outside then the likelihood of a robbery falls. Keep your windows free and clear of any and all signage.

7) Keep Shelves Stacked Moderately
Robbers often have a loitering period before they strike when they are getting comfortable inside a store. If they remain visible to employees – and the parking lot – then they are less likely to get to a point where they are comfortable robbing you. Further, lower shelves can reduce incidences of shoplifting.

8) Elevate Your Employees
If possible, elevate your employees to provide them with longer range vision within the store. This along with low-stacked shelves will maximize visibility and natural employee surveillance.

9) Have Two Employees on Duty During High-Risk Times
Having more than one employee on duty can reduce the risk of robbery during the most high-risk robbery times. It’s vital that both are well trained on violence reduction though, as sometimes two employees are more likely to fight back against robbers.

10) Keep Your Store Neat
Stores that appear dirty and disorganized are robbed more often. Enforce regular cleaning duties that keep employees actively engaged in maintaining the store environment. Be sure that they understand how this impacts their safety.

11) Post Height Strips at Exits
For post-robbery management put height strips at your stores exit points. This enables employees to better assist law enforcement officers in identifying a robber after a holdup.

12) Invite Police for Regular Visits
Free coffee, free food, even a free place to sit and write up reports – find out what your local police want and give it to them so that they become regular visitors to your convenience store. Most robbers stake out a given convenience store before striking and stores that are known police hang outs are typically less of considerations for theft.

>> Securing the External Environment
How your store appears on the outside can have an enormous impact on overall robbery reductions. This section outlines several external environmental tactics for stopping robberies.

13) Remove Pay Phones
Pay phones encourage loitering. When people just "hang out" in front of your store robbers become more comfortable in loitering and gathering information that could make your store more vulnerable. Further, if you permit loitering around your pay phones you’re likely to attract illicit trade, which in turn can attract robbers.

14) Post "No Loitering" Signs Outside and Enforce a No Loitering Policy
Get the police involved with loitering reduction. Train employees to call the police if there’s someone hanging around outside the store – especially if they are acting suspiciously. Many ordinances focus on loitering reduction as a means of robbery reduction.

15) Provide Adequate Lighting
Adequate lighting is shown to reduce incidents of robbery. Be sure that faces in your parking lot are easily visible from the street. Further, be sure that you’re not creating a glare that could reduce visibility. Strong, white lighting outside of your convenience store can also make your customers feel safer.

16) Limit Access with Fences and Shrubs
Studies show that escape routes are a key consideration for robbers. Control getaway paths – especially for robbers who plan to escape by foot. When possible put up fencing and shrubbery that restricts easy getaway into allies and crowded neighborhoods surrounding your store. Reduce entry and exit points and you will reduce robbery.

>> More Convenience Store Security Resources
Here are other convenience store security resources that you may find valuable.

First Houston, Now Dallas: the Convenience Stores Security Ordinance in Texas
Robbery-Deterrence Program (7-Eleven’s Tactics)
Multistate Study of Convenience Store Robberies (PDF)
Robbery of Convenience Stores (PDF)
Responses to the Problem of Robbery of Convenience Stores
Recommendations for Workplace Violence Prevention Programs in Late-Night Retail Establishments (PDF)
A crime-fighting plan for urban store operators (free sub req’d)
RISK FACTORS FOR INJURY IN ROBBERIES OF CONVENIENCE STORES EXAMINED IN NIOSH STUDY
Houston and Hartford adopt laws to curtail crime at convenience stores (free sub req’d)
Crime rate drops at C-stores in New Mexico; security rules are credited (free sub req’d)
Expert: Anti-crime ordinances should be based on proven methods (free sub req’d)
Convenience Store Security (PDF)

One Response to “16 Tips for Preventing Convenience Store Robberies”

  1. We would like to get permission to reprint these tips on the Greensboro Police Department’s website. Thank you.

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