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Robbery Prevention And Defense

By Ira A. Lipman

Robbery, unlike other crimes, represents a threat to both your person and your property. Robbery is the taking of another's property by force or threat of violence. It is a crime in which there is always a confrontation between the victim and offender. Muggers (street robbers) generally try to frighten or intimidate their victims in order to gain physical and psychological control over them.

Robbers prey on small businesses, particularly retailers open at night. According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses lose to robbers an amount three times greater than their larger counterparts. A mom-and-pop store with 3 per cent net profit, for example, must sell $17,000 worth of goods to compensate for one $500 robbery.

Extent Of Robbery

Extrapolations of victimization surveys indicate that, on the average, one set of every forty-eight of the nation�s households was touched by robbery. From 1982 to 1984, robbery rates fell, but over the next three years through 1987, this crime increased by 5 percent. This turnaround probably reflects the emergence of the second generation of the post-World War II Baby Boom. This Baby Boom Echo probably will continue to adversely affect our crime rates for years to come.

December and January are the primary robbery months, followed none too closely by the midsummer months. These facts might lead to the speculation that robberies are related to schools� being closed. At the very least, vacations would allow students more time for many pursuits, crime among them.

Robbery And Violence

Robbery accounts for 40 percent of all crimes of violence. Force is employed in about half the robberies, and firearms in 40 percent. In attacks on victims, 20 percent involve guns, and 36 percent involve knives. Robbery is a crime of violence.

Do not be a hero or resist the robbers physically or verbally; this will increase your chances of injury. It is true that robbers may use force even if you don�t resist, but if you do attempt to thwart their goals, they will become frustrated and will be more likely to employ violence. Do not be deceived by unarmed robbers, because they use strong-arm force. The presence of an armed robber�s weapon � a gun in particular � is threatening enough to control the victims. The unarmed robber uses force to minimize victim resistance.

Your chances are about one in three that you will be hurt in robbery and one in five that your injury will be serious enough to require hospitalization. Elderly people are particularly vulnerable, because they are much more likely to be shoved, pushed, or knocked to the ground by robbers than are younger people, and they are more likely to receive injuries that require hospitalization. Robberies seldom involve people who are known to each other. Studies show that more than three-quarters of all robbers are strangers to their victims.

Robber�s Profile

The typical robber is an uneducated lower-class male under twenty-one years of age. Robbers are well represented among all races and ethnic groups. So are their victims. Only eight out of every one hundred persons arrested for robbery in 1986 were females.

Deterring Robbery In Small Businesses

If you own a small business or store, keep the premises orderly and clean. A cluttered store gives the impression of carelessness. Be active, moving around the store. Maximize the amount of space inside that is visible from the outside by using adequate lighting. Avoid obstructions near the window that might block the ability of passerby and the police to observe what is happening inside the store. Robbers may be reluctant to enter a store with high visibility from outside.

Vigilance Is The Best Strategy

Always greet customers in a friendly manner. This will not only benefit your business but also let a potential robber know that he or she may be identified later. Robbers seek to remain anonymous and to avoid friendly contact with potential victims. Be alert for anyone appearing to loiter inside or outside the store, seemingly waiting for you to be alone.

Careful Planning

Planning for robbery is always a wise measure. Every employee � especially those who handle the money � should be advised what to do in the event of a robbery. You should prepare signals so that once a robbery is in progress, you can alert employees who may be in a position to notify the police.

Handling And Safeguarding Money

Keep a minimum of working cash in your store, especially at night, when most robberies occur. Put larger bills in a drop safe as soon as you receive them. Never allow cash to accumulate in your register. Make bank deposits during the day, varying your route and timing.

Be serious about protecting your money. Display burglar alarm decals in a prominent place. If you belong to a special citizens� robbery prevention program, post signs to this effect inside and outside the store. Since many robberies occur when you open or close the store, try to have someone else present at these times. Robbers case their potential targets and know when only one person will be on hand.

Do not balance registers or count receipts in full view. This actually tempts robbers, customers, and even other store employees. Have cash drawers taken to a secure location to count the money.

It is best not to rely on firearms. A robber will have the �drop� on you and usually is ruthless and desperate. Alarm systems, electronic surveillance equipment, safes with time locks, and other robbery-resistant items may provide better protection and should be considered for your store.

Violence Prevention Procedures

Obey the instructions of robbers as quickly as possible. Never argue with them. Robbers are less likely to injure you if you cooperate. The shorter the time it takes the robbers to do their work, the less chance there is for injury or even death. In a small business, remain calm, and reassure your employees and customers. Do not fight with the robbers or attempt to use weapons. By the time you are confronted by a robber, it is too late for such actions. Alert the robbers to any surprises, such as an employee working in the back room or a delivery person who may return to the store at any moment.

Take mental notes about the crime and the criminals. Pay attention to the number of robbers, their ages, sex, ethnic backgrounds, appearance, clothing, weapons, voices, nicknames, special characteristics, and unusual behavior or identifying marks.

One anti-robbery technique that is sometimes recommended is the installation of a doorbell in your place of business. The bell should ring in an adjacent store, enabling your neighboring merchant to notify the police when you are unable to do so. For your neighbor�s protection, you can reciprocate.

A word of caution: If the robbers observe your signaling, they will, characteristically, do harm to you. But they may also take only cash or valuables that are easily located and not waste too much time in vacating the premises.

Post-robbery Action

Note the make, color, and year of the vehicle used in the robbery and the license plate number and state registration. Do not chase or follow the criminal under any circumstances. The robbers may try to kill you, and the police may even mistake you for the criminals.

Notify the police immediately. Stay on the phone until they get all the necessary information then remain close to the telephone. Take inventory of exactly what was stolen, but do not give this information to the responding officers. Reveal this information only to the detectives assigned to your case � the police may talk to reporters and publicity about a substantial loss, that may convince other robbers to attack your store, too.

Record the names and addresses of witnesses. Do not disturb any objects the robbers may have touched or held, and avoid discussing the robbery until the police say it is OK for you to do so.

Mugging Defense

Most muggings take place on the street. Thus, the best protection is to be alert and cautious at all times. Be suspicious of strangers, and never trust anyone you do not know. Avoid walking at nighttime, especially in dangerous or unfamiliar neighborhoods. If you must go out at night, walk on well-lighted main thoroughfares. It is useful to carry a small amount of money, say, $50, to appease the potential mugger, but large sums should be avoided. Walk next to the curb, and stay away from buildings, alleys, doorways, shrubbery, trees, and benches. Walk at a determined speed, and appear in a hurry to reach a destination. Cross the street if you spot someone suspicious walking toward you or following you. Be always able to make a phone call in an emergency.

If confronted by a robber, use your common sense, and follow the suggestions in this chapter. If there is an opportunity to escape without objecting yourself to violence, take advantage of it; otherwise, maintain yourself cool and follow the mugger�s instructions precisely. After the robbery, call the police. Bear in mind that a robber or a mugger initially is after your valuables, but if he or she should feel threatened by you, it would cost your life.

In the 1980s, particularly the earlier part, several major robberies provided continuing press coverage. In November 1983, the largest robbery in British history occurred. Forty million dollars in gold and f175,000 in diamonds were taken. Two days prior to this, $6.5 million was taken from a Memphis armored-car location, ironically on Thanksgiving Day. Two months before that, a Connecticut armored firm lost $7 million to robbers. About one year before that, the largest robbery in US history occurred in New York. Another armored-car firm suffered a $11 million loss. Shortly thereafter, it went out of business.

In August 1987, a security-box firm in London was attacked at gunpoint by two well-dressed men who entered the building, they said, to order to rent a strongbox. They took $48 million, and police official indicated that the �real� figure could be as great as $64 million.

Each of these incidents, except possibly the August 1987 one, was accomplished with the assistance of an insider. Perhaps some, or all, of these crimes could have been prevented if more care had been taken in the selection of employees by victimized firms.