Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Understanding Your Local Problem

The information provided above is only a generalized description of convenience store robbery. You must combine the basic facts with a more specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing the local problem carefully will help you design a more effective response strategy.

Your analysis should examine the different risks evident in the stores, and be particularly focused on repeat victimization. Gathering information is labor-intensive and detailed. The more standardized your department’s information-gathering process, the more opportunity you have to understand your robbery problem and reach conclusions.

Stakeholders

In addition to criminal justice agencies, the following groups have an interest in the convenience- store robbery problem and should be considered for the contribution they might make to gathering information about the problem and responding to it:

  • local business associations (e.g., chambers of commerce),
  • convenience store associations,
  • state and federal workplace safety agencies,
  • worker’s compensation agencies,
  • insurance companies,
  • convenience store corporation loss-prevention departments, and
  • private security firms.

Asking the Right Questions

The following are some critical questions you should ask in analyzing your particular problem of convenience store robbery, even if the answers are not always readily available. Your answers to these and other questions will help you choose the most appropriate set of responses later on.

Since environmental details are particularly relevant to this type of crime, it is important to listen carefully to victims’ description of the robbery. You can collect pertinent information by asking victims incisive questions about the setting and circumstances of the crime.

It is also crucial to interview as many apprehended offenders as possible. to find out how they make their decisions. See Problem-Solving Tools Guide No. 3, Using Offender Interviews to Inform Police Problem-Solving, for further guidance on gathering information from offenders.

Offenses

  • How many convenience store robberies have occurred?
  • What is the ratio of attempted robberies to completed robberies?
  • What proportion of robberies (and attempts) is reported to police? If some robberies are not reported to police, why?
  • What proportion of robberies have been repeat robberies (occurring at the same convenience store) within the past year?
  • What is the typical length of time between repeat robberies?
  • How long do robbers take to complete the robbery? Do they use a “straight” or “customer” approach (as described above)?
  • How do employees react to robberies?
  • What types of weapons are used, if any? Have any injuries resulted?
  • How many employees and customers are typically present in the store during robberies?
  • What are the usual escape routes or methods?
  • How much money or merchandise is typically stolen?
  • What other financial costs do convenience stores incur from robberies (e.g., repair costs, lost business, insurance premium increases)?

Offenders

  • Are there many different offenders involved in the robberies, or is a small group of prolific offenders responsible?
  • How many of the prolific offenders have records for committing store robberies? How many have recently been released from prison?
  • How much planning do offenders do?
  • Do offenders work in gangs? How many offenders are in the gangs?
  • Do offenders belong to any particular ethnic, occupational, or other group?
  • What proportion of offenders are juveniles?
  • Are offenders under the influence of drugs or alcohol while committing robberies?
  • What proportion of offenders commit robberies primarily to support a drug or alcohol habit?
  • Do offenders appear to be familiar with the premises robbed? If so, how do they get the information (e.g., from complicit employees, by careful casing of the store, by prior visits as a customer, by prior robberies at that store)?
  • Do employees recognize offenders as familiar to the location?
  • How do offenders get to the stores? On foot? In vehicles?
  • Are offenders drawn to the area by robbery opportunities. or for some other reason (e.g., illegal drug markets)?

Targets

  • Which types of convenience stores are most at risk of robbery? What types are at least risk?
  • Which stores are being robbed repeatedly? What do high-risk stores have in common with one another? How do they differ from low-risk stores?
  • How long have high-risk stores been in business?
  • How big are the stores? Are they part of a larger chain? If so, how does the robbery experience vary among stores in the chain? How does it compare with that of similar stores in other chains?
  • What time do the stores close?
  • Is the property isolated? Is lack of natural surveillance a contributory factor?
  • What proportion of stores has gas pumps?
  • What site features facilitate robbery? Corner location? Rear access?
  • Is there evidence of collusion between staff and robbers?

Locations/Times

  • When do robberies usually occur (time of day, day of week, month or season of year)?
  • What is the nature of the surrounding neighborhood?
  • Where do events concentrate? Are they clustered near major roads? Near known drug markets? (Computerized crime mapping can facilitate robbery analysis.56,†)

    † For more information on crime mapping tools, see www.iaca.net/software.asp.

Current Responses

  • What is the clearance rate for convenience store robberies?
  • What security measures have the stores taken to prevent robbery?
  • Do store employees follow correct cash-handling and other robbery prevention procedures?
  • What robbery prevention measures, if any, are mandated by law? To what extent are those mandates inspected and enforced?
  • What training or robbery prevention information is provided to store owners, managers, and employees?

Measuring Your Effectiveness

Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results. You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses, to determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them, to determine whether they have been effective. All measures should be taken in both the target area and the surrounding area. For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the Problem-Solving Tools Guide, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers.

The following outcome measures can be useful in assessing whether your responses have impacted the convenience store robbery problem:

  • fewer reported convenience store robberies and related calls for service,
  • fewer repeat victims and offenders,
  • fewer robbery-related financial losses and insurance claims,
  • fewer business closures resulting from robberies,
  • fewer or less-severe injuries of employees and customers resulting from robberies, and
  • greater perception of safety among store owners, employees, customers, and the community at large.

In addition, the following process measures might provide some indication of the degree to which selected responses are being properly implemented:

  • higher proportion of stores following standard security practices, installing security devices, and/or using guard services; and
  • higher proportion of store personnel formally trained in crime prevention.