Armed robbers don’t discriminate against who they harm, be it a cashier, business owner, or police officer responding to the call for help. The best protection you can offer yourself and your employees is prevention.
On May 3rd there was another armed robbery in Philadelphia and the city lost another fine police officer when the escaping armed robbers shot and killed Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski.
Sgt. Liczbinski, a 12-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, was responding to the robbery of a Bank of America branch inside a ShopRite store. According to the Philadelphia police, the armed robbers were stopped in their stolen get-away car by Liczbinski.
As Liczbinski exited his patrol car, one of the suspects opened fire with a Chinese SKS Carbine, killing the police officer. A short time later, a Philadelphia police officer shot and killed one of the three suspected armed robbers, and a second suspect was arrested the following day.
A multi-state manhunt for the third suspect was underway when an informant told the FBI where the suspect was hiding. FBI agents and Philadelphia homicide detectives arrested the third suspect, and following a Philadelphia tradition, the detectives slapped the late Sgt. Liczbinski’s handcuffs on Floyd.
This story illustrates, I believe, just how dangerous armed robbers can be. Cop-killing armed robbers are total outlaws. If they will kill a police officer like Sgt. Liczbinski, they will kill anyone, anywhere, and anytime.
Liczbinski was the third Philadelphia police officer killed in the line of duty in the last two years. Like Liczbinski, the other two slain officers – Officer Chuck Cassidy and Officer Gary Skerski – were also slain by armed robbers.
So what chance does the small business owner or worker have? There are a number of safeguards the small business owner can install that will help prevent armed robbery, save lives if an armed robbery occurs, and aid the police in the capture of the armed robbers.
First and foremost, as I’ve written here before, you should install security cameras. CCTV cameras discourage most criminals and they help police capture the more brazen (or dumb) ones unfazed by camera surveillance. Bright exterior and interior lighting and a clear view of your establishment through windows will also help prevent crime.
One should also install basic access control. You can install a buzzer to open your door to customers, as well as a release to allow visitors to leave. If you can’t afford this option, or it is not practical for your establishment, a door buzzer that simply announces someone entering is the next best thing.
In addition to the above measures, you should install emergency call buttons, more commonly know as panic buttons. The panic buttons can alert your security company and/or the police that a robbery or some other emergency is ongoing, which will ensure a rapid response from the police.
The panic buttons should be placed near the cash register or on your counter or employee’s desk. There are also personal emergency call buttons, which are attached to the person.
Of course, it’s hard to remain calm when a desperate criminal is waving a gun at you, but you should be perfectly still, as calm as you can, and quickly follow the armed robber’s instructions. Remember that armed robbers are generally excited and anxious, and many of them are on intoxicated on drugs and alcohol. Armed and dangerous is not just an expression.
Train your employees on how to react to emergencies. You should have an emergency plan and you should have drills. Train them to report suspicious activity, like the customer that spends an inordinate amount of time in your business, or the car that slowly drives by several times.
Link up with other businesses in your area and exchange information. Get to know the cop on the beat, be he or she on foot or in a patrol car. You should also get to know the local police captain or chief.
Hone your observational skills, so you’ll be better able to notice suspicious behavior, and you’ll be better able to identify the armed robbers. Tell the investigators the race, age, height, weight, clothing and any identifying characteristic, such scars.
Be aware of who you hire. Many armed robbers work with an inside man or woman. This bent employee will inform the armed robbers of the best time to rob the store and provide other useful information to them.
Most at risk is the lone cashier in a solitary store, located on a main street, opened late at night. But even home business people are at risk if they keep cash or valuable products in their home. Armed robbers have been known to invade homes as well.
Victims of armed robbery have told me how terrifying an experience it was for them. By installing cameras, bright lighting, panic buttons and other preventive measures, your business may never have to endure that awful experience.