Small Business
October 3, 2023
Crime Prevention
How to prevent an armed robbery and what to do if one happens

How to prevent an armed robbery and what to do if one happens

As a retail worker or business owner, it’s important to be informed and prepared when it comes to armed robbery. Your overall aim should be to ensure the offender leaves as soon as possible without harming anyone.

Armed robberies are relatively rare. But they do occur. They are obviously very frightening and have a huge impact upon a workplace.

Have a security plan

As a business, you have a legal duty to provide a safe workplace and unfortunately that means doing the best you can do to prevent a crime occurring. Don’t wait until a robbery has occurred to update your security systems and procedures.

It’s important to have a security plan in place to:

  • to reduce the chance of your business being targeted
  • increase the safety of your employees and customers
  • reduce the impact of a crime on your business
  • assist police in in catching the offenders if a robbery does occur.

6 steps to reduce the chance of robbery

  • All areas of your store should be clearly visible from the street.
  • An open and uncluttered store front provides a clear view into the business so passers-by can see if a crime is being committed and alert police. 
  • Makes sure your store is well-lit on the inside and outside, especially at night.
  • Stay aware of what is happening inside and outside your business. 
  • Keep a look out for anyone acting suspiciously – individuals who seem out of place, are hanging around in groups with faces covered or look like they are monitoring your business activity.
  • When your business is open, consider keeping any back and side doors locked.
  • Self-locking doors are a good option as are deadlocks and window bars.
  • Install barriers so customers cannot access private areas. 
  • Limit the amount of cash you keep on site and in cash registers. 
  • Encourage customers to use card or SmartPay. 
  • Make regular bank deposits during business hours and at different times of the day. 
  • Position cash registers so they’re less visible and away from the front door.
  • Install a safe with a post-feed, time delay and dye bomb device. 
  • Display signage which states staff cannot access cash and that no cash is left on site overnight.
  • Monitored security alarms can help secure your business and ensure a quick and trained response from your monitoring company. 
  • While security cameras are unlikely deter criminals, the footage can certainly help police investigating the crime. 
  • Consider hiring store security or arranging regular security patrols. 
  • Make sure you have signs clearly displayed warning about security cameras, alarm systems and security patrols.
  1. Prepare your staff 
  • Ensure all staff are trained in how respond to a robbery, handle cash and what sort of suspicious behaviour to watch out for. 
  • Run robbery practice drills if you can; use various scenarios.
  • Try to have at least 2 staff rostered on together, especially at opening and closing times.
  • Make sure staff can easily access the important numbers to call if something does occur – especially Triple Zero (000). 

What to do during an armed robbery

Armed robberies are rare, but they do happen, and it is vital that you and your staff know how to keep safe during the event. Being informed and prepared is the best tool you can have.

The overall aim during an armed robbery should be to ensure the offender leaves the premises as soon as possible, without injuring or harming anyone.

Your safety is the priority. Stay as calm as possible. Most robbers don’t want to hurt anyone; they just want money or goods. Remember, the items in the store can be replaced. You can't.

Do exactly as the offenders say. If they ask you to do something, do it - this isn't the time to challenge them. Only give them the cash or goods they’ve asked for – don’t hand over any items they didn’t ask for. Their main goal is likely just to get what they want and leave quickly.

Entering into any conversation, even if you think you are being helpful to the offender, will only prolong the incident and may make them become more agitated.

Avoid making direct eye contact with the offender, as this can be seen as threatening. At the same time, try to make mental notes about their appearance including height, weight, clothing, or any other unique details such as scars, tattoos, accents, piercings or facial hair. This will be valuable for the police later.

Stay where you are unless instructed otherwise. Sudden movements can be mistaken as threats. If you need to move, for any reason, tell the robber what you're about to do. Also let them know if you need to make any movements to comply with their instructions. Don’t attempt to retaliate or attack the offender; and ensure that they can see your hands s, they know you're not reaching for anything.

Only active alarms or panic buttons or sneakily call Triple Zero (000) if it’s completely safe to do so. . Otherwise, you'll only be putting yourself and others at risk. As the robbers leave, don’t try to follow or chase them - leave that to the pros.

After the robbers have left, close the business and lock the doors immediately. Don’t let anyone in except emergency services. Don’t touch or move anything and isolate areas where the offenders stood, touched, spat or bled. Make sure all staff and witnesses stay on-site and provide first aid to anyone who is injured. 

Immediately call Triple Zero (000) – even if you’ve activated an alarm. The operator will ask you a series of questions. Only hang up when the Triple Zero (000) operator tells you to and then stay off the phone until police arrive. 

Provide police with as much detail about the crime as you can remember, including when the offender entered and left the store, whether they used any weapons, where they went in the store, what they touched, what they took and which direction they left in. Any detail, no matter how small, might be essential.

What to tell Triple Zero (000)

The operator will want to know:

  • Exactly location including business name, address, closest intersection street
  • Details of what happened.
  • Your name, address and contact number
  • Whether anyone was hurt at the scene?
  • Description of offenders including their vehicle if possible
  • Direction of travel

What should witnesses do?

  • All witnesses should wait on site until police arrive. 
  • Witnesses shouldn’t touch or move anything, especially items or surfaces the robber may have touched.
  • Witnesses should stay apart if possible and avoid talking about the incident to each other or the media if they’re on the scene. This information may be needed in a future prosecution.
  • It’s helpful for witnesses to write some notes about the incident as soon as possible, with as much detail as they can remember. 

Consider counselling for staff

Crime affects people in different ways and the impact may not be immediately obvious. This experience can be traumatic and stressful.

As part of your responsibility to your staff and customers, consider arranging trauma counselling. The Victims Support Agency (VSA) within the Department of Justice and Community Safety is the official Victorian Government agency helping people manage the effects of violent crime.

Encourage staff to speak with a professional or trusted person about their feelings and remind them that it’s okay to seek help.

Get Police Assistance

For all emergencies and immediate Police assistance
Call: 000
To report non-urgent crimes or events 24 hours a day
Call: 131 444
To report information about a crime contact Crime Stoppers on
1800 333 000

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Neighbourhood Watch Victoria acknowledges the 38 mobs, the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we operate, live, and gather as employees and volunteers. We recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community and pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.

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