Business Robbery And Violence Prevention

Written By: Joel Council
The Ventura County has seen a number of armed business robberies committed in recent months. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report lists four (4) cities in the Ventura County with a population of 100,000 or more. These cities include Oxnard, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, and Ventura. Of these four cities, analyzed from 2012 – 2013, the following robbery trends were observed. Oxnard saw by far the largest number of robberies totaling more than the other three cities combined. Oxnard also had the second lowest percentage increase at 7%. Simi Valley, by contrast, had the lowest number of robberies, and saw a percentage increase of 12%. Thousand Oaks had the second lowest robbery total, but also saw the highest percentage increase at 35%. Ventura had the second highest robbery total, but was also the only city to see a percentage decrease, one of 29%. These targeted locations are places people work and frequent all the time. How should we deal with these scenarios? To help combat these trends, and increase awareness about business robbery and prevention, the Oxnard Police Department has taken a proactive approach in community awareness. The following robbery and violence prevention points were made at an Oxnard Police Department’s Safer and Stronger Campaign meeting. Posted with permission.

Oxnard Police Dept. Safer & Stronger Robbery & Violence Prevention

The goal of this program is to provide a safe and secure environment for the employees and customers of your business. It will focus on the risk of violence committed by persons who come into your business for the sole purpose of committing a crime. Program emphasis is placed on robbery, which is clearly the most prevalent of these criminal acts. The program is based on research which has established what robbers look for when deciding to rob the business. The goal is to make your business as unattractive as possible to robbers by incorporating a basic robbery prevention program that includes the following elements:
  • Controlling cash (Cash Management)
  • Improving outside and interior lighting (Lighting)
  • Increasing visibility throughout the business (Visibility)
  • Eliminating escape routes where possible (Access Control)
  • Keeping clean, well-maintained premises (General Appearance)
  • Posting robbery prevention instructions and cash handling decals (Signage)

Additional security measures may be encouraged for businesses with a history of robbery, businesses located in high crime areas, or those with other special risk factors for criminal activity. Recommendations may include door alarms and automatic locks, cameras, alarms, and employee safety enclosures. The following points will make you a more knowledgeable customer of security products and services that are appropriate for your business.

Background
Most robbers do their homework prior to selecting their target. They observe employees and business layout to learn how your business operates. Robbers look for the following factors in selecting a target:
  • Plenty of available cash
  • High payoff with low risk of being caught
  • Low chance of interruption
  • Quick in and quick out
  • Low chance of being seen
  • Low chance of recognition
  • Easy escape

Measures designed to prevent robbery use the robbers target considerations to convince them that robbing your location is not worth the risk:
  • Persuade the robbers that there is little available cash
  • Maximize the perception of risk
  • Maximize the perception that the robbery will be seen
  • Maximize the perception that the robber will be recognized
  • Reduce the number of potential escape routes

Cash management
Controlling the amount of available cash is critical to lowering the risk of robbery. Word spreads quickly among the criminal community when a business can be counted on to have a plentiful supply of available cash. Consider the following points:
  • Business keeps $50 or less in the cash register (or the minimum amount needed for operation)
  • Business has a drop safe located at the cash register
  • Safe has a decal indicating “no employee access”
  • Customer entrance has a “minimum cash in register” sticker on the door
  • Business has written guidelines for cash management
  • Business has guidelines for making bank deposits

Lighting
Proper lighting should be maintained both inside and outside your business. Keeping lighting and fixtures clean and not broken can improve the feeling of safety and security at your business. A well lit store interior with clear windows is a value to your safety. People can see into the business from the street, including police who may be on patrol. Criminals do not want to be seen. Therefore, interior and exterior lighting that maximizes at this opportunity can deter a criminal from approaching your business.

Illuminating the face and sides of the building in all areas with public access and lighting areas of the façade above ground level are also important. Any area that is left dark and obscure will detract from the feeling of safety. Lighting landscaping and other objects in the foreground should be considered in developing and enhancing safety.

Visibility
Visibility should expose criminal activity to potential observers inside and outside the business. Activities near the cash register should be clearly visible by vehicles and pedestrians passing in front of the location. Interior and exterior lighting should be adequate to maximize visibility during hours of darkness.

Visibility can be maximized through the following measures:
  • There is a clear line of sight to the cash register from the street
  • There is a clear line of sight into the business from the street
  • Remove signs, displays and ads that obstruct surveillance into and out of the business
  • Raise or move window signs that block a clear view of the cashier
  • Locate the cash register so it can be easily seen from inside and outside the business
  • Increase level of lighting outside the building
  • Ensure even illumination throughout the business interior
  • Consider light reflective background paint to improve contrast and light reflection
  • Ensure light balance that allows surveillance into and out of the business
  • There is no place outside of the business to hide
  • There is no place inside of the business to hide

Access Control
Escape is one of the most important factors for criminals considering a potential target. Their evaluation will include selection of alternative escape paths from the business to the car, the escape route after reaching the car, and the amount of time it takes to reach the car from the cash register or other area of the business.

Keep bathroom doors locked at all times. Criminals can hide in bathrooms, waiting for the opportunity to rob or hurt an employee. Keep back doors and non-customer entrances locked at all times. Rear escape routes can be equipped with a local exit alarm to discourage unauthorized use while meeting local fire code. Door entry chimes can be used to alert employees to persons entering the business. They also increase the feeling of vulnerability in potential criminals, who fear being noticed and recognized.

In addition, consider the following:
  • Locks on all doors of the business are in good working condition
  • All doors in the business are in good working order
  • Non-customer doors into the business are kept locked

General Appearance
The business should be clean and well maintained with no broken windows, graffiti, trash, or other obvious signs of deterioration. A coat of paint and a clean business interior will improve the deterrent effect on improving the attractiveness of your location. A clean, well-maintained business sends a clear message that it is a well-managed and well-controlled business that cares about its employees, merchandise, and customers. Potential robbers, for example, may assume a poorly maintained business is probably sloppy regarding the cash control procedures. Businesses that are well-maintained are also less prone to shoplifting and internal theft.

Signage
  • Safe has a decal indicating no employee access
  • Customer entrance has a “minimum cash in register” sticker on the door
  • A height marker is placed correctly at the main customer entrance

These measures will help to decrease the possibility of your business being robbed. Consider these points and take the steps to decrease your chances of becoming a target. Future articles will consider employee observation, what steps to take before – during – after a robbery, customer service, and loss prevention and employee theft.
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