Armed Robbery Prevention

While potential robbers are deciding whether to rob the store, store managers or clerks can do things that frustrate a robber’s intentions. The idea is to unnerve potential robbers.  They include:

Cash Handling Procedures:

  • Keep as little money in the cash register as possible, especially large bills.   Be sure to display notices near cash registers informing the public of these practices.
  • Post a sign that the business may not accept large bills after a certain time.  Stores can operate on very little money if you request customers to pay for their purchases with the smallest bill and the exact change.  
  • Use a drop safe to avoid the accumulation of large sums of money in the cash register.  A drop safe is one equipped with a slot to accept bills while the door remains locked.  If a drop safe is available:
    • Put all $100, $50 and $20 bills into the drop box or floor safe when they are received.  Do so publicly.Tell customers the purpose of making the drop.  This educates the public and makes the store less attractive to potential robbers, thus making robbing this business no longer worth risking a trip to jail.
    • While casing your store before a robbery, would-be robbers look into the cash register while it is open during a sale.  If they see only change and small bills, they are less likely to rob the business.
    • Do not count cash in front of customers when clearing the register, especially at closing time.  This may provoke a spontaneous robbery if the thief knows when and how much money he can expect to take.

  • Bank deposits can be used to reduce how much cash is on hand.  When transporting receipts from a business to a bank, do not use obvious moneybags to avoid advertising they are carrying money.  If possible, have someone accompany you and frequently alter your route and time of delivery.
  • Consider using “bait” money in all registers.  Record the series, serial numbers and denominations of a small amount of bills and if there is a robbery, give these bills to the robber.
    • Verify bait money regularly.  Identification of stolen property is always a problem, especially cash. Unless the business can prove ownership for court purposes, use of bait money is useless.

Look Alert:  A drowsy clerk in a messy store may invite would-be robbers.  Have clerks get out from behind the counter when the store is empty.  They can:    

  • Keep the store clean and uncluttered.
  • Keep the store well stocked.
  • Keep active.  The clerk’s activity may turn away some robbers simply because it would take too much time for them to accomplish the robbery.  Robbers prefer getting in and out quickly.

Increase Visibility:

Robbers do not want to be visible from outside the business.  They do not want a police officer or other witness to see them holding a gun to you.

  • The store cash register should be located to allow a clear view for passing motorists, pedestrians and police.  If there is a robbery, an employee can note car descriptions and direction of travel.
  • The business interior and exterior should be well lighted to deter robbers from hiding in shaded areas. Poorly lit parking lots give potential robbers cover while they watch the store.  It also makes it harder for the victim to identify the getaway car.  Customers appreciate a well-lit parking area.
  • Since most robberies occur after dark, block off areas outside where robbers could stand without being seen from inside the business.
  • Store management should consider nighttime changes in the locations of the store signs or displays that may block the visibility of the cash register from outside the store.


Keep a Sharp Lookout:

  • Occasionally the store employee should look at likely places outside the store for cars parked either across the street or in the lot, where a potential robber could be casing the business.
  • Look for anyone who might be watching the store or loitering.
  • If the person does not leave, call the police.  Tell them where you are and what you see.  The officer would rather check out a suspicious person than take a robbery report.

Greet Each Person Who Comes Into the Store:

  • Give everyone a friendly greeting.  A robber does not want to be identified.  Robbing strangers with as little human contact as possible is safer for them.
  • Look each customer directly in the eyes.  Such human contact will spoil it for some would-be thieves.  It spoils their element of surprise, threatens them with a chance of being identified later and makes it harder for them to loiter inside and watch you.
  • Ask the customer ahead of the suspicious person, “Are you together?”  The customer may then turn around and look at the person.  Because robbers do not want to be identified, this trick may scare them off.
  • Keep a friendly eye on each customer.  This has the added advantage of preventing shoplifting.
  • Pay particular attention to young males; those wearing clothing that may conceal weapons, those who come in having not parked a car where you can see it and those who loiter over a trivial item, perhaps waiting for other customers to leave.

Special Late Night Steps:

  • Most robberies occur after dark. At that time, you should take special steps to make the store less attractive to any robbers.
  • Keep a minimum of money in the cash register.  Many stores operate with less than $50 between two registers.
  • Be sure all indoor and outdoor lights are on and working.
  • Do not lie to a robber.  Fake security devices and signs do not help.  Robbers soon learn to ignore them.