The No. 1 threat to convenience stores is organized retail crime (ORC). And though a 2014 National Retail Federation survey indicated that retailers affected by crime was under 90% for the first time in six years, c-stores remain a top target.
“Often the c-store industry is the first stop for this type of criminal, who usually works in groups of 4-6,” said Sean Sportun, manager of security and loss prevention for Mac’s Convenience Stores, a Toronto-based chain that has integrated technology into its training, prevention and awareness programs. “These incidents can be prevented by having a solid ongoing security training program and ensuring all program policies are followed—specifically credit card acceptance procedures and ensuring the stockroom door is always secured.”
Training staff to keep cash and merchandise secure, locking up high-profile merchandise and using video and cash management technology is vital. In 2012, convenience store robberies made up 5% of total robberies, resulting in an average loss of $706 when taking into account register, safe and merchandise losses, according to an Athena Research Corp. study. Using time-lock safes and video cameras inside and outside the store can help reduce that risk while simultaneously helping solve crimes.
“Investing in a time-lock safe so you’re able to have a low amount of money in the register and having signs up letting the robber know reduces your risk of robbery,” said Rosemary Erickson, Athena president and forensic sociologist. “It’s also important to have exterior cameras, to ensure the cameras are operational and that you keep the images for at least a month.”
PREVENTION A CLICK AWAY
Ensuring the cameras are working is not just beneficial for law enforcement—it can also help the community become aware of crime and its cost. In 2012, Macs began posting pictures and videos of robberies on social media. Since then, 77% of those seen on video were apprehended, including 87 of 107 suspects posted online last year. The program’s success led to the development of MacsCrimeBusters.com, which uses videos of robberies as well as crime prevention and community engagement programs.
“It is a unique approach to crime prevention and we have had nothing but positive feedback from our employees, customers, law enforcement and the media,” Sportun said.
The program now includes youth outreach, educational videos for small businesses and for internal training and a public awareness campaign illustrating the true cost of retail theft through ads and flyers showing what theft costs shoppers.
Video technology can be both a deterrent and an informant and is essential for keeping stores safe and deterring crime. Security is the most important thing when dealing with a criminal activity that has not changed much over the years.
“What’s fascinating is that nothing has changed that M.O. for the basic convenience store, potentially violent, robbery,” Erickson said. “He comes in with a gun and says the standard phrases. The most important thing is to have a program in effect that includes training not to resist.”