Many robberies are crimes of opportunity. Even those that aren’t are often committed by criminals who are afraid and hesitant. For many thefts and robberies – especially of cash from a till or petty cash – it can take very little to deter a criminal. Sometimes, you can even do it with a question.
Confrontation Risks Escalation
If your employees suspect someone is acting suspiciously, how can they approach them without escalating the situation? If you call them out, you may simply have assumed a customer was a criminal. That doesn’t reflect well on your store, will lose you the customer, and will give you bad word of mouth.
If they are considering committing a crime, calling them out can also provoke them to commit to the crime. If they hadn’t been called out, they may have gotten cold feet and simply left. Yet confronting them about their intentions can make them panic and commit to the aggressive route. This also carries the risk of provoking them into a state of panic, making the robber feel out of control and putting employees at risk.
Polite Response Reinforces Hesitation
Instead, you can often deter crimes by showing attention and quick response. Ask if the suspicious customer needs help. Are they looking for something in particular? A robber might give you a noncommittal response – they’re looking for something for their girlfriend, but they’re not sure. Ask what the girlfriend likes, etc. (Don’t assume a noncommittal response is evidence of someone being a robber; plenty of law-abiding citizens are finicky.)
Make eye contact if you can. This serves to reinforce in the robber’s mind that people will remember what he looks like, and it also humanizes the people he’s considering threatening. Both of these things can help deter a criminal, depending on the kind of doubt he has in the back of his mind.
Security Reinforces Employee’s Strengths
The point is that polite, active engagement shows the robber that people are paying attention to him and responding to him. This will also accentuate other strengths. Employees paying attention reinforces the strength of other security elements a robber sees – such as a CCTV camera system. A CCTV camera system can also reinforce the employee, giving them a stronger position in the interaction.
Polite questioning doesn’t risk escalating the situation or provoking a robber, but it will show that the staff he is considering robbing have noticed him, may remember him, and are already responding quickly to his actions.