7 Point Security Checklist For Convenience Stores
Aside from generating revenue, the number one priority of a convenience store (C-Store) owner should be creating a safe environment for employees and customers alike. If a convenience store owner succeeds in doing this, the fact is, the revenue (and profits) are likely to follow.
Owing to the importance of C-Store security, we enlisted the help of Dr. Rosemary J. Erickson of the Athena Research Corporation and the Portland (Oregon) Police Bureau and compiled 7 point checklist for security.
Rosemary J. Erickson, Ph.D., is a forensic sociologist and a nationally known expert on crime prevention and security. Dr. Erickson has discussed security and safety on ABC 20/20, NBC Dateline, CNN, MSNBC and many other respected outlets. She was gracious enough to talk to us for this blog, so we have combined her advice with information gathered from a document entitled “A Guide to Robbery Prevention and Response to Robbery” published the Portland Police Bureau. Continue reading below for convenience store safety tips.
Building Access and Security Devices
Control access to the building. The Portland Police Bureau advises stores to keep all doors locked, except for the main entrance. They also say that owners should ask all employees to use the main entrance. Also, install a lock on the door to the back room, one that can be unlocked from the inside. There should be an extra key inside the back room, as well as a phone and a panic button for worst-case scenarios.
One of Dr. Erickson’s tips is to increase security by creating a sense of territoriality. Dr. Erickson defines territoriality as “the use of physical features to show ownership over your property.” It discourages outsiders by defining private space, and it allows employees to see intruders. Clearly defined areas like coffee stations, cashier lines and labeled areas help convenience store owners tell if people are there to shop or to loiter.
Video surveillance is absolutely necessary for any convenience store. Owners of multiple stores can install software that enables any manager with the right security clearance to access all cameras in the entire chain’s system from anywhere, including mobile devices and computers at home. The familiar setup of cassettes/DVD recorders linked to cameras are becoming obsolete, with newer IP cameras (digital cameras with Internet access) on the market offering advanced storage capabilities and better picture quality, along with features like license plate recognition and output alarms for emergencies.
In Dr. Erickson’s opinion, “Cameras may not technically reduce crime, but they will be useful in reducing public nuisance cases and be extremely helpful after a crime does occur.” Some burglars are simply intent on committing a crime and a camera won’t dissuade them. However, she has found that cameras do reduce loitering. When it comes to the placement of surveillance cameras, the experts say that cameras should be placed high on the wall in a clearly visible area. This is recommended to let the customer know that he or she is being recorded while ensuring that the camera is not easily damageable.
And lastly, cameras are extremely useful for identifying criminals after the fact. Convenience store owners should place height markings along the vertical frame at the entrance of the store, according to the Portland Police Bureau. This is an old and established tactic, but it is very helpful when it comes to identifying criminals through surveillance footage.
An effective method for preventing a robbery from happening in the first place is to encourage employees to report suspicious activity to the authorities preemptively. As a convenience store owner, it is advised that you train employees on an ongoing basis on how to be vigilant. For example, if they observe an individual or occupied vehicle lingering around the business for a certain amount of time and/or acting suspiciously , instruct them to call the non-emergency phone line of your local police station. This can prevent crime from occurring not only at the C-Store location, but elsewhere in the surrounding area.
Visibility – Physical Features
C-Store owners should define their territory with physical features like landscaping, fences and signs. Easily recognizable signs-of-boundary like fences, bollards, and painted areas of parking lots serve to discourage loiterers and other potential wrongdoers by defining a private space. According to Dr. Erickson, “fencing is the most important security feature in commercial settings.” This is because fencing will limit the number of escape routes for a criminal. For example, fencing around the back area of a store prevents criminals from escaping behind the store. With proper fencing, the only way out of a store’s property should be through the front of the building. At night, Dr. Erickson recommends having just one point-of-entry to a convenience store open, which makes it easier for employees to spot an unwanted intruder. One should also keep a clean property free of litter; as this instills trust in the customer and creates a more legitimate setting. Effective lines of visibility on a store property also increase the chance that people passing by will observe robberies taking place from a distance and possibly help.
Visibility – Lighting
Practical decisions like keeping counter displays low and placing wide-angle mirrors in strategic locations will assist with visibility issues in blind areas of the store.As we’ve mentioned in the past, lighting is very important to security and Dr. Erickson agrees. “Lighting is huge,” she said. “It can be one of the biggest influences in creating a safer space.” Convenience store owners should illuminate a property as much as possible to deter crime.
During the evening, take greater precautions. As Dr. Erickson mentioned above, it’s smart to limit the number of escape routes for criminals, especially in the evening. However, one should also make sure the lights outside are working and install a door signal if one is not in place already. Door signals are important because often at night, employees are busy stocking shelves and doing miscellaneous tasks in addition to running the counter. According to Dr. Erickson, the number of employees present at night does not have a burglary deterrence effect. A door signal will keep employees alert and aware of who is in the store.
Convenience store owners should not keep unnecessary amounts of money in the cash register. “The best targets for burglars are mom-and-pop stores,” Dr. Erickson advised, “because there is usually too much money in the register and a gun under the counter.” This is why it is essential for convenience store owners to equip a store with security equipment. Mom and pop convenience stores are usually regulated much less than chain stores….and burglars tend to take advantage of that. While it may seem smart to keep a gun under the counter, it can lead to escalations in the severity of a crime. Installing a security system is a much safer and more effective store security option than arming store personnel.
According to the Portland Police Bureau, a convenience store employee should make trips to the bank often, varying travel times and routes to reduce predictability.They also advise carrying money in disguised containers and having a transport partner if possible. Do not make bank trips at the same time routinely, a burglar could recognize this and attack. They also advise driving directly to an open business, police precinct or fire station if you feel you are being followed while transporting money.
Incident Response Plan – What To Do If a Robbery Occurs
The Portland Police Bureau recommends that convenience stores call the police immediately after a crime. If you act quickly enough, police may be able to catch the suspect and recover the money. After calling the police, remember to keep the telephone line clear until the police arrive, the officers may need to call you.
Lock all the doors and allow no one else in. Ask witnesses to please remain on the premises until police arrive and not to touch anything that the robber may have touched. It’s also important not to discuss what happened with any other witnesses in order to keep impressions untainted.
If possible, complete an incident-suspect-vehicle description while waiting for police to arrive. The responding officers will want this information right away when they arrive and the sooner they have it, the sooner they can relay the information to other officers. One should consider keeping a portable recorder near the register in order to verbally record first impressions immediately after the incident. Recording your impressions can be easier than writing them down after a traumatic experience.
Lastly, remember that robbery response strategies require planning and coordination between employees and management. Have a plan in place that explains what to do in the event of a robbery. It’s important to remind employees to keep a level head, use common sense during times of danger and adhere to safety protocol.
Convenience store owners should take the advice from Dr. Erickson and the Portland Police Bureau to heart. These practical steps paired with a professional security system can vastly improve the safety of any convenience store.