Q: I am a business owner in Santa Monica and I want to make sure I am prepared for any type of crime against my business. How can I make sure I am prepared against a robbery?
A: To help prevent the occurrence of a robbery, follow these simple but valuable suggestions:
• Install an alarm system;
• Have at least two employees open and close the business;
• Do not release personal information to strangers;
• Keep purses and personal valuables locked in desks or lockers;
• Place a surveillance camera behind the cash register facing the front counter and replace videotapes regularly at varied times;
• Vary times and routes of travel for bank deposits and use unmarked moneybags and consider using armored car money couriers;
• Keep a low balance in the cash register and place excess money in a safe, or deposit it as soon as possible;
• Deposit all large bills right away. If a customer tries to pay with a large bill, politely ask if he or she has a smaller one, explaining that you keep very little cash on hand;
• Keep your business neat and clean. A tidy, orderly place of business and neatly dressed employees is inviting to customers, but not to robbers;
• Know who is in your business and where they are, and watch for people who hang around without buying anything;
• Be aware of suspicious activity outside your place of business and write down license numbers of suspicious vehicles if visible from the inside of your business;
• Make sure the sales counter is visible from the outside so that police can see in when they drive by your store. Don’t put up advertisements, flyers, displays, signs, posters or other items on windows or doors that might obstruct the view of the register from inside or outside your business;
• Try to greet customers as they enter your business by looking them in the eye, and asking if they need help. Your attention alone can often discourage a robber.
Follow these tips when working late at night:
• Keep your business well-lit, inside and outside, and keep trees and shrubs trimmed so they do not block the light. Employees should report any burned-out lights to the business owner or manager;
• Be cautious when taking out the trash or cleaning the parking lot. Make sure another employee inside the business keeps you within eye contact while you are outside of your building;
• If you see something suspicious, call the police. Never put yourself in danger by trying to handle a situation yourself;
• Use only one register at night. Leave other registers empty and open, and tilt the register drawer to show there is no money in it;
• Leave blinds and drapes partially open during closing hours;
• Post signs that say “Clerk cannot open the time lock safe” and make sure important signs stay posted.
During a robbery, try to remember these tips:
• If your business is robbed, put your safety before that of money or merchandise;
• Don’t talk except to answer the robber’s questions and don’t stare directly at the robber;
• Prevent surprises by keeping your hands in sight at all times, and don’t make any sudden moves;
• Tell the robber if someone is coming out of the back room, a vault or working in another area of your business;
• Cooperate with the robber and comply with demands for your own safety and the safety of others;
• Try to remain calm and think clearly, so that you can take mental notes of the robber’s physical description and other observations that may help police officers;
• If you have a silent alarm and can reach it without being noticed, use it. Otherwise, wait until the robber leaves.
What you do after a robbery can be just as important as what you do during one. Here are some helpful suggestions:
• Don’t chase or follow the robber, but try to see the direction that he flees;
• If you see a “get-away” vehicle, write down a description and a license plate number;
• Call 911 or the police as soon as it’s safe, and remain on the line;
• Lock your business;
• Ask any witnesses to stay until the police arrive;
• Call your business owner, manager, or other designated person;
• Don’t touch anything the robber may have touched;
• As soon as you are able to, write down a description of the robber and the weapon while it is still fresh in your mind;
• When police arrive, try to stay calm and cooperate;
• Do your best to remember what the suspect looks like and any other details the police might use.
If you have further questions or would like to receive training or advice first hand please do not hesitate to contact the Neighborhood Resource Officer for your respective area.
This column was prepared by NRO Robert Lucio (Beat 6: Montana Avenue to Interstate 10, 20th Street to Centinela Avenue). He can be reached at (424) 200-0686 or firstname.lastname@example.org.