ASK THE EXPERT
Question: What actions can convenience and operators take to deter theft and boost overall safety and security?
Expert: Sean Sportun, ICPS, SASAP, is national director, strategic accounts, GardaWorld Protective Services.
The gas-convenience store environment is a unique business model. Stores sell age-restricted products, which come with regulatory concerns. Stores sell gasoline, which creates environmental challenges. Stores sell grocery items, which involve food-safety requirements. Combined with the fact most stores operate 24/7, inviting a transient flow of customers at all hours, it’s easy to see how challenging it can be to promote safety and security day in, day out.
Therefore, organizations and independent store operators need to make the safety of employees and customers their first priority. Having a comprehensive security plan, coupled with regular, mandated training, is imperative for employees. It will create a robust safety culture, while ensuring employees are well prepared to do the right thing when faced with a theft or robbery.
If you can succeed in your security plan, the revenue (and profits) are likely to follow.
Data has shown certain stores are more predisposed to crime issues, where they are more vulnerable—and more frequently targeted—than others. Research-based evidence exposes a causal connection between environmental influences and the prevalence of criminal activity, such as theft and robberies.
Criminals’ top three factors when choosing to commit a robbery at a specific store location are:
1) Knowing the amount of money they can obtain.
2) Having an easy escape route.
3) Maintaining the offender’s anonymity.
Keeping these factors in mind, reducing crime at your store is simpler than you might think. Consider applying these five steps when devising your security plan:
Great customer service is the biggest deterrent to criminal behaviour; honest customers love it, and dishonest customers hate it! Make it a practice to always greet customers as they enter the store, it removes anonymity and lets them know they have been seen.
With the high turnover rate in the gas-convenience industry, it is imperative to have a regular training schedule in place. If your employees do not have the proper training, it could put their health and safety at risk!
Embed a strict cash handling policy that limits the amount of cash on hand and post signage that reflects this, such as Store has less than $50, Time lock safe or Clerk cannot open safe. Consider the use of a Smart Safe system to further limit the access to cash for employees.
If a robbery does occur and a large amount of money is taken, the offender will think they can get the same amount (or more) at another store, and it will encourage them to try again.
Not having or following a policy could put colleagues at risk, especially those at other locations who are following proper procedures. The offender won’t know who to believe, which increases the potential for violence and injury.
Maintain clear visibility
Criminals do not want to get caught; they want to get in and out quickly without being seen and would prefer to work behind closed doors, or in the case of convenience and gas stores, behind cluttered windows where they can hide.
While it’s important to ensure the store is stocked with merchandise and marketing advertisements, it is equally important not to block the view to the outside. If the potential offender can see the employee while outside and the employee has a clear view of the parking lot, it will make a would-be criminal less likely to approach the property.
If your parking lot is not well lit, you’re giving the offender more opportunity to hide. A brightly lit parking lot area will make it more inviting for a normal user to visit your location, while removing the concealment darkness provides to the would-be offender. Incidentally, the same applies for interior lighting: the brighter, the safer.
DVR surveillance system
Invest in an adequate digital video surveillance system and strategically place cameras both inside and outside of your store. Not only will the picture quality assist law enforcement to identify the offender, it also will support you in defending any general liability claims that may result.
If you need a security plan or would like your existing plan reviewed, have a qualified security professional conduct the review, which should also include a risk assessment of your store location.
Remember, when you look at things differently, the things you look at change. And that’s crime prevention at its best.
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2022 issue of Convenience Store News Canada.