ARMED ROBBERIES & HIJACKINGS
This morning I was dropping off my kids at school and on the way passing by a service station. The site is very busy in the mornings with dozens of vehicles, customers, and employees moving about.
While waiting at the traffic light we heard 2 shots fired. I could see a traffic cop running to his motorcycle parked on the driveway and holding his service pistol in his right hand. We were less than 50 meters away.
Knowing what could happen next if more shots are fired or a chase ensued, I weaved through the traffic and left the area at speed. Many of the other motorists were staring in the direction of the site in disbelief. Apparently more interested in seeing what was going on than getting out of danger.
Service stations are unfortunately prime targets for all sorts of criminal activity. Armed robberies and hijackings occur too frequently in the industry. It is a careful balance to make a service station convenient for customers, but inconvenient for criminals.
Criminals seem to be less concerned about police intervention as evidenced by many videos on YouTube of robberies or hijackings happening on the forecourt, in broad daylight.
Service stations are at risk for armed robberies inside the shop/office, armed robbery during the Cash in Transit pickup, armed robbery of customers on the forecourt or in parking bays, and the hijacking of customer’s vehicles.
That is why it is critical to make sure that the basics are in place at your site. Below we have listed some of the practical steps you can take and included examples.
ARMED ROBBERY / HIJACKING BASICS
Be aware of your surroundings:
- Know what is happening around you.
- This also includes not sleeping on duty.
- During your site walkarounds, ask each employee to spot something that is out of place, this teaches them to notice details and reminds them they cannot daydream during their shift.
- Identifying near misses is an excellent way to improve situational awareness.
Look out for suspicious people and suspicious vehicles:
- This is difficult, but people and vehicles generally move in and out of the site quickly, if people are loitering or vehicles are parked for long periods, they are suspicious.
- Train your supervisors to approach any suspicious person or vehicles just like they would do with any customer by offering to help.
- If it is indeed a customer, they will be impressed by the service.
- If it is a criminal, they will not like the attention and probably leave the site.
- Teach your employees to remember the rule “Treat suspicious people just like customers”.
Do not provide information about the site to strangers:
- Employees should not share information about the site with anyone else, especially details about what happens on-site, security measures, habits, and routines.
- Criminals may investigate their targets and will try to get as much information about the site’s security measures, but only if employees are willing to talk to anyone about their job.
- Remind employees to avoid answering questions about the cash, security, routines, habits, locks, gates, keys, panic buttons, etc.
- A Cashier may be asked “I see the fuel price went up, there must be lots of money at your job?” and may reply with details of cash amounts and where it is kept.
Keep cash to a minimum:
- Cash is the most wanted prize for any criminal. If they “think” you have lots of cash that is easily accessible, your site can become a target.
- Use an electronic drop safe and 7-day Cash in Transit pickup.
- Pay suppliers via EFT not cash.
- Show employees that you do not have access to cash and have Cashiers explain to employees that they drop cash frequently and do not have access to it once it is dropped.
- We would advise that cashiers do not keep cash on hand instead of safe dropping in order to pay a supplier when they deliver.
- Armed robberies and hijackings can be survived without incident if everyone is trained on what to do and what NOT to do.
- This includes training to stay calm and NOT trying to stop the robbery or hijacking by trying to be a hero or trying to protect the cash/customer.
- It also includes reminding employees to give their full cooperation and do what the robber/hijacker has asked.
- Lastly, it includes not making any sudden moves and not looking the robber or hijacker in the eyes as they may think you’re trying to remember what they look like.
- Remind employees that even if they “grab” one criminal, there may be others, with guns, that they have not seen yet.
- Therefore, it is better to let them take what they want and leave as soon as possible.
ARMED ROBBERY / HIJACKING
There are a few other things you can do to reduce your risk and keep your employees, customers, and site safe and secure.
Run Emergency Response Drills for Armed Robbery/Hijacking scenario:
- It is not possible to train all your employees in one group, so take a few employees and guide them through the drill. Then take another group and do the same.
- Your drill should “walk” them through the process of what happens during an armed robbery/hijacking so that they “think” about what they should and should not do at each step.
- A great way to do this is to show them a video of an armed robbery/hijacking and then talk through the correct and incorrect behavior in the video.
- You can find several Health & Safety Incident and Accident videos that are available to all learners registered on ‘tasklearn’.
Identify high-risk areas on your site:
- Service stations are designed to be easily accessible to customers. But this is also why they are easier targets for criminals. There may be a few things you can do to reduce your risk.
- Think like a criminal and see if there are any hiding places, CCTV blind spots, or easy targets on-site.
- Sometimes you can improve your security by moving a camera slightly or installing a gate in a high-risk area.
- One site installed fencing on a certain section of the site, facing the street, this “channeled” pedestrians through a section that was sufficiently covered by cameras.
- Another site installed a gate to reduce the number of customers and employees who “wander” around at the back of the building.
BEST PRACTICE DO’S AFTER AN ARMED ROBBERY / HIJACKING
- DO ensure that your employees have access to a phone and several panic buttons
- DO put up a poster with the local emergency numbers
- DO call the Police after the criminals have left and call the Ambulance if there are any injuries
- DO keep employees and customers calm until the Police arrive
- DO request customers to stay behind to give a statement to the police
BEST PRACTICE DO NOT’S AFTER AN ARMED ROBBERY / HIJACKING
- DO NOT move or touch anything where the incident took place in case there are fingerprints or other evidence.
- DO NOT continue trading as normal; close the shop/office/kiosk/storage area where the incident happened.
- DO NOT forget to save CCTV footage and to check that it was saved correctly.
The shooting I mentioned at the beginning was a reminder that anything can happen on any day.
It is better to be prepared for an emergency even if it never happens.