ARA Retail Crime Series: Responding to armed robbery

Armed robberies may be one of the most frightening types of retail crime, but there are steps you can take to ensure the safety of your employees and make it more likely for an offender to be caught by the police. In this article the ARA has pulled together some advice for what to do before, during, and after such an event.

Before an armed robbery

People and practices

  • Train staff in how to respond to an armed robbery, emphasising that their safety and customer safety come first
  • Sometimes criminals will stake out your shop in advance. Train staff to be aware of suspicious activity, such as:
    • People who frequently enter the shop without buying anything
    • People who ask questions about how the business runs, e.g. about procedures for cash handling
  • Create an internal reporting policy for staff to report incidents to managers and, if located in a shopping centre or precinct, be aware of any policies it has for reporting criminal activity
  • Build and maintain relationships with neighbouring businesses so that you can look out for each other and alert each other to suspicious individuals or activity
  • Avoid having one staff member work alone
  • Implement smart cash handling practices.

Store layout

  • Ensure that all windows, back and side doors are securely locked
  • Ensure that your business name and street number are clearly visible – this will allow police to attend to criminal events as quickly as possible
  • Ensure that your shop is well lit, especially entrances and exits
  • Ensure that windows are free from posters and not obscured by furniture or other clutter; this will allow the inside of your business to be visible from the street and for staff to watch the street and lock the door if suspicious activity is occurring outside
    • Crime Prevention NSW recommends that promotional material cover no more than 15% of window space
  • Have a wide sales counter that can serve as a natural barrier between staff and customers
  • Make sure employees have escape paths from behind the sales counter
  • Install CCTV and display signs letting your customers know about your security measures
  • Consider installing silent alarms/ panic buttons in a discreet location behind the sales counter that employees can activate in an emergency
  • Ensure cash registers and safes are strongly anchored so they cannot be removed easily
  • Consider placing height markers on doors to better judge the height of offenders and allow them to be identified by police.

 During an armed robbery

During an armed robbery you should keep your safety and the safety of customers front of mind. Don’t try to be a hero. Instead:

  • Stay as calm as possible
  • Maintain your distance
  • Obey the offender
  • Keep in mind that the offender is likely nervous and on-edge
    • Avoid appearing aggressive so as not to startle them: step back, show your hands, and avoid any sudden movements; explain any movements you have to make to follow the offender’s instructions
  • Speak only when spoken to so as not to prolong the situation
  • Activate alarms as soon as it is safe
  • Observe and mentally take note of the following:
    • The time
    • The physical appearance of the offender, particularly any distinguishing features such as scars or tattoos
    • The offender’s accent and any distinct speech patterns
    • Any weapon they use or threaten to use
    • The direction they head when they leave your shop
    • If they leave in a vehicle, the vehicle registration number, model, colour and how many other people are in the vehicle
  • Don’t give the offender more cash or goods than they are asking for
  • Don’t chase the offender.

After an armed robbery

  • Call the police on triple zero straight away
    • Tell them as much information as you remember, even if it seems trivial
    • Call them back if you remember more details
  • Close the premise to the public
  • Don’t touch or move anything near where the offender was
    • Close off this area if you can
  • Write down what happened as soon as you can in case you are required to give evidence as a witness. You should include what the offender looked like, what they did, what they said, what you did and said, and any details you remember.
  • Remember that your customers are also witnesses. You should:
    • Ask them to stay in the shop until the police arrive; if they say no, ask for their names and phone numbers
    • Ask them not to talk to each other about what just took place
    • Ask them to write down, individually, a description of the offender and what happened.


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