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If your business and staff are properly prepared, you may never be robbed and if you are robbed, the risk to everyone's safety will be dramatically reduced.
The following information will help you to:

  • Spot danger 
  • Understand robbery motivators and depersonalize the crime 
  • Learn steps to harden your business against robbery 
  • Teach methods to keep everyone safe 
  • Make you a keen observer
  • Protect the scene for police 
  • Assist the police in apprehending the suspect

Help Spotting Danger

You and your staff can learn to spot danger. Watch for anyone loitering or pacing, especially near opening and closing times.

Look for people that are overdressed for the weather including hoodies, a bandana around the neck, sunglasses, or a hat worn covering the face.

Watch for people casing your business by sitting in a car, waiting in a phone booth or standing opposite the property watching your store.

Install closed circuit video cameras both inside and outside the store. All cameras must be situated with care to capture meaningful images. Outside locations must be well lit.
Install height strips at all entrances and exits.

Try to make friendly, recurrent eye contact with anyone you find suspicious. This alone might be enough to break the confidence of the perpetrator. They know this might lead to their identification and arrest later.

Report suspicious individuals and behaviours to the police and trust your instincts. When you get a bad feeling about someone, there may be legitimate foundation.

Understand the Perpetrator's Motivation

The primary reason to motivate someone to risk apprehension and jail is money. Often the desire for money is driven by an unsatisfied addiction. There is a very good chance that the perpetrator will be under the influence of an intoxicant, or in withdrawal, when entering your store. A mind under the influence of drugs may not respond to normal or reasonable logic. The suspect may be under extreme duress and view you and your staff as an impediment to get what they want or need. Although you may feel that a robbery is an attack upon you personally, the suspect only wants money or goods.

Your focus must be to remain safe. In addition to the immediate risk of harm by a gun, knife, or some other weapon, many addicts carry contagious diseases such as Hepatitis-C. Even a brief scuffle could leave you with a life threatening illness.

Do NOT keep a weapon in your store. There is a seven times greater risk to your safety if you keep a weapon there.

Target Hardening

You and your staff should be able to see the exterior surroundings. Reduce and remove window obstructions, especially near cash positions. All entrances should be well lit and free of obstructions that would allow someone to hide undetected.

A well-lit, tidy store with good visibility to all areas of the store is not a good target for a robbery. Convex mirrors will help to see areas of your store that might otherwise be hidden from view.

Install closed circuit video cameras inside and outside your store and keep your system in top shape. Routinely check image quality and replace tapes, if any, once they begin to deteriorate. The prices of digital cameras and recording devices have dropped to a level that makes them affordable, perhaps less than the cost of one robbery. Post signs that clearly indicate the presence of video equipment.

Consider installing panic alarms especially if your store is sometimes staffed by only one person.

Reduce the amount of cash kept on hand. More frequent deposits will help. A drop safe that clerks cannot open, combined with clear signs telling potential perpetrators that only small amounts of cash are present may alone prevent a robbery.

Install height strips at all entrances and exits. Once more, the suspect is alerted to your preparedness. They may leave the store without you ever knowing they were there.
Increased exterior lighting will help discourage loitering, also making it more difficult for a perpetrator to watch your store from outside.

Remote controlled access during quiet business hours is a proven way to reduce robbery. Further, consider initiatives to bring legitimate customers into your store during low activity periods. Free coffee during quiet periods, tied to the sale of something else may be all it takes to pick up sales and increase welcomed traffic. Review your inventory and eliminate all products commonly used in illegal drug trade. This includes items such as rolling papers, hookahs and crack pipes.

Train you staff to move away from the cash area when there are no customers. A suspect may be discouraged by the anticipated time delay and possible difficulty getting staff back to the cash area.

Statistically the highest numbers of robberies occur:

November to February (>50%)
Friday to Sunday (>60%)
10:00 PM to Midnight (>50%)

Important note: If you have recently experienced a robbery, the probability of another robbery is very high. Robbery prevention efforts should be enhanced immediately.


Train for Safety

None of your inventory or the money in the cash is worth more than the safety of your customers or the people that work in your business. Here are the keys to staying safe:
Remain calm and stay in control.

Keep the transaction just like any other sale. Brief is good. The longer a perpetrator is on the property, the greater the likelihood of violence and injury.

  • Do what the assailant says and do not argue.
  • Do not fight with a robber. 
  • Don't use weapons. Weapons breed violence. 
  • Do not surprise the assailant by sudden movement. Tell the perpetrator what you are about to do before you move.
  • Give the suspect what is asked for, no more. 
  • Remember perpetrators seldom hurt people who cooperate.

Be a Keen Observer  LargePoster.jpg

Look at the suspect. Note things like clothing, height, weight, hair colour, tattoos, any unusual characteristic.

Look at the weapon(s). Size, type and colour are useful observations.

Make note of what the perpetrator touches. These items may provide DNA and fingerprint evidence.

Protect these areas from contamination after the suspect leaves until the arrival of the police.

Try to note where the perpetrator goes upon leaving and, if in a vehicle, the make, model and colour. A licence plate number is always useful to a police investigation.

Print out our Suspect Description to use in your business.


Protecting the Scene

Once a suspect has left, do two things immediately: Lock all doors and call 911.

Tell the 911 operator: "We have been robbed". If anyone has been injured, tell the 911 operator who will send medical aid immediately.

Stay on the line. 'The robber has a ________( Describe any weapon(s) seen or unseen i.e.: gun, knife, metal pipe...); He left heading______________ (direction); _______________(running, or in a blue Chevy with lots of rust...).; "He was with another guy___________." Give the best descriptions you can.

Make certain no one touches areas where the suspect has been or items touched by him, especially a hold-up note. Select one of your best staff, who is calm, to guard the scene until police arrive. An empty cardboard box turned upside down and set over an exhibit is a good way to prevent accidental contamination before the police arrive.

If a customer insists on leaving before the arrival of police, record their name, address and contact telephone numbers.

Don't discuss the event with other potential witnesses. If the news media tries to get information, tell them to contact the police. Premature release of information can seriously damage a police investigation.

Catching the Suspect

If you and your staff have remained calm and given the police helpful and accurate information, the police investigation may lead to the arrest of the person(s) responsible.
A small packet of bills with the serial numbers recorded on a piece of paper known as Bait Money is a very effective tool in a police investigation.

Use of a "Robbery Quick Reference Guide" (Attached - next page) will help you and your staff collect and preserve useful information that may become evidence.

Safeguard the cash area or any area where the perpetrator was and especially items touched. If there are many people present, delegate your most responsible person to safeguard this evidence.

Do NOT chase a fleeing suspect; the risk to safety is much too great.

Robbery Quick Reference Guide

Stay calm - making mental notes of the suspect will help control fear.

Tell the suspect what you are going to do. Don't make any sudden moves.

Obey suspect demands. Give them what they want. Don't volunteer anything.

Remember suspect description. Height, weight, age, hair, tattoos, scars, clothing.

Evidence left by the suspect may include: DNA, fingerprints, notes, items they touched in your store and even weapons. Also, clothing like gloves, balaclavas and jackets are often discarded by fleeing suspects.

  1. Lock the doors as soon as the suspect leaves.
  2. Call 911. Say," We have been robbed." Tell the 911 operator if anyone needs medical help. Give descriptions, direction and method of travel for suspect(s).
  3. Protect evidence; especially the area around the robbery itself occurred.
  4. Calm customers or employees that are agitated.
  5. Make notes of what you saw. The back of this page or Suspect Identification Sheets work well. 
  6. Do not discuss what you went through with anyone until the police say it is okay. Do not talk to the news media. Refer them to the police.