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Keeping Your Business Safe: Robbery Prevention
Robbery is a predatory crime, as well as one of opportunity. Studies of robbery incidents indicate that there are certain steps leading up to the actual occurrence of a robbery that offer the best chance of preventing the crime. During target selection, the robber looks for places that have cash available, are isolated, and are easy to enter and leave. During the "casing" phase, the robber looks for loose security procedures. When approaching the victim, the robber is interested in using the element of surprise.
Even with the best precautions, however, not all robberies can be prevented. In the event a robbery does occur, certain procedures must be followed to reduce the possibility of injury to victims and to enhance the opportunity for capturing the robber. Businesses have been held liable by the courts for not taking reasonable precautions to protect employees and customers from harm.
This report discusses the measures that can reduce the likelihood of a robbery attack, the procedures which can limit the "take" in the event of a robbery, and the actions to be followed during and after the robbery.
Numerous studies have found a direct correlation between available cash and the likelihood of robbery. Reducing the amount of money available to robbers is the best robbery prevention strategy. And by reducing the likelihood of robbery, the possibility of injuries and fatalities to employees and customers is reduced.
Prior to implementing any robbery prevention program, certain basic questions must be asked about the business so that the exposures can be properly identified. In this way, optimum benefit can be gained from the security program.
- Is the business of a type, such as a jewelry store or fast food restaurant, with cash or valuables on-hand that makes it more prone to robbery?
- Is the business of a nature, such as a 24-hour convenience store that is considered at "high risk" for robbery?
- Is cash on-hand or in cash drawers kept at a minimum? Interviews with robbers have indicated that when the amount of available cash drops from $100 to $50, fully half the robbers lose interest in the store as a robbery target.
- Is cash transferred to the bank regularly, but not on a set, predictable schedule?
- Is there a need for armored car service or for having a guard accompany bank messengers (especially for night deposits)?
- Is there a policy of not making change, and if so, is this policy conspicuously posted?
- Is the business isolated from its neighbors? Robbers prefer targets that allow them to escape unseen.
- Are employees advised to observe and report suspicious persons?
- Are employees trained in procedures to follow during and after a robbery?
- Are there established "buddy" procedures for opening (such as one employee waiting outside while another searches the premises) and closing (having one employee leave and go to the safety of a car before the other employee locks up) the business?
Robbery Prevention Measures
Based on the answers to the questions in the preliminary analysis, a decision can then be made regarding which of the following preventive measures need to be implemented. Some of these measures should be "standard operating procedure" for businesses that handle cash or other valuables at risk to robbery.
- Do not locate cash registers near exits or within easy reach of customers.
- Time-delay safes are an effective robbery prevention measure because they reduce the amount of available cash. Keep cash on the premises, especially in cash registers, at the lowest possible level (usually less than $50) by depositing all extra cash in a time-delay cash drop safe. Locate the safe near the cash register for ease of use. Post signs stating that only $50 in cash is available, that extra cash is kept in a time-delay safe, and that employees do not have access to the safe.
- Transactions involving large bills (i.e., over $20) should be prohibited during high-risk hours. Post signs stating this policy.
- Maintain a record of decoy currency ("bait" money) kept in the cash register.
- When making bank deposits, go to the bank directly, but vary the route and time of the trips. Alternatively, use an armored car service.
- Keep the interior and front and rear entrances of the premises well-lighted. Illumination levels should be in compliance with local codes or the requirements of the IESNA Lighting Handbook, published by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA).
- Robberies have occurred when employees have disposed of trash or went to outside storage areas at night. Locate trash and storage areas so as to ensure employee safety. Otherwise, have employees utilize a "buddy" system when disposing of trash or using these areas at night.
- In some robberies, access was gained through the side or rear door. Keep side and rear doors locked at all times, if possible, without conflicting with life safety code requirements.
- Do not allow posters and displays to obstruct the view into the premises or block employees' view of outside areas.
- Where provided, train employees in the use of the holdup alarm system. The local police can provide advice on the procedures to be followed in using the alarm system.
- Maintain the holdup alarm system under a service contract and test the system periodically. Be sure to alert the proper authorities prior to any test.
- To facilitate their escape, robbers have locked store employees in freezers and storerooms. Install a holdup alarm initiating device, or other communication means, in these areas.
- Consider the use of bullet-resisting enclosures for employees if robbery is a persistent problem.
- Consider the use of a closed circuit television (CCTV) and videotape system. A CCTV system can have a deterrent effect on robbery, since it provides a means for identifying the robber.
- Publicize the fact that holdup alarms or other security systems are installed on the premises.
- Vary lunch hours and coffee breaks so that several employees are always on duty.
What to Do During a Robbery
While one can’t predict the events which will occur in a robbery, businesses must instruct their employees in the proper actions to follow during a robbery that are least likely to result in physical harm to employees and customers. The goal is to avoid violence. Studies have found that active resistance have accounted for a vast majority of killings during robberies.
- Instruct employees to do exactly as instructed by the robber. No actions should be taken that could jeopardize personal safety.
- Advise employees not to make any sudden movements during a robbery, to keep their hands where they can be seen by the robber, and to avoid staring at the robber.
- Advise employees to assume the worst if a weapon is displayed - that the robber will use it. Take no risks whatsoever; if it is a firearm, consider it to be loaded.
- Do not attempt to actuate the holdup alarm while the robber is on the premises unless there is absolute certainty that it can be done without risk to others.
- If a holdup note is used, try to maintain possession of it.
- Do not go beyond the specific instructions of the robber in handing over money or other valuables. If possible, include "bait" money.
- Observe physical characteristics of the robber(s): race, age, height, facial characteristics, complexion, hair, clothing, physical carriage, marks, scars, deformities, speech, and method of operation.
- Note the number of accomplices.
- Note the method of escape and direction. If by car, note its make, model, year, color, and license number.
What to Do After a Robbery
The ability of the police to apprehend the robber is dependent on the speed of notification by the victim and the clarity with which the circumstances of the robbery are described.
- Never pursue the robber.
- Notify police as soon as the robbers leave the premises.
- Give the police the exact time of the robber's departure.
- Lock all doors if possible - allow no one in except the police.
- Protect the scene of the crime; do not touch any articles that may have been handled by the robber, and stop others from disturbing the premises.
- Ask witnesses to remain until the police arrive.
- Jot down all information relating to the crime — do not trust it to memory.
- Do not discuss the robbery with anyone until you are questioned by the police.
Head to our loss control and risk management page to learn more ways to protect your business.
1. Engineering and Safety Service. CCTV: Application and Use. CP-52-20. Jersey City, NJ: ISO Services, Inc., 2005.
2. Holdup Alarm Systems. CP-51-10. Jersey City, NJ: ISO Services, Inc., 2007.
3. Security for Late-Night Retail Businesses. CP-93-75. Jersey City, NJ: ISO Services, Inc., 2012.
4. The Impact of Criminal Acts: Robbery. CP-21-10. Jersey City, NJ: ISO Services, Inc., 2007.
5. Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA). IESNA Lighting Handbook - 10th Edition. New York, NY: IESNA, 2010.
COPYRIGHT ©2012, ISO Services, Inc.
The information contained in this publication was obtained from sources believed to be reliable. ISO Services, Inc., its companies and employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with either the information herein contained or the safety suggestions herein made. Moreover, it cannot be assumed that every acceptable safety procedure is contained herein or that abnormal or unusual circumstances may not warrant or require further or additional procedure.