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Keep an Armed Robbery From Becoming a Tragedy

Business owners advised that cooperation and observation during a holdup are often the best ways to help police afterward.

“Give me your money. Now!”

The thought of hearing those words spoken by a person holding a weapon is enough to send chills down the spine of any small business owner. All those tricks used to foil robberies in countless movies and TV shows are just that — tricks. Armed robbers mean business, and this is no time to risk the lives of your customers, your employees or yourself.

In the event of an armed robbery, police advise victims to cooperate with thieves rather than resist them. During a holdup, the business owner should be concerned with personal and employee safety, while discretely gathering information that might be helpful to police. Try to observe characteristics like sex, age, height, weight, race and color of skin and eyes. In addition, remember identifying characteristics such as scars, tattoos, limps and speech.

Law enforcement officers suggest two easy ways to estimate height: Compare the robber with a familiar structure in the store or mark the doorframe with various heights. There is also training available to help you and your employees spot and remember distinguishing traits about thieves.  Accurate descriptions of the weapon can also be a big help. Try to notice whether the criminal touches anything: counter edges, door handles, cash register keys, etc. Don’t touch those areas until police arrive, then tell officers what the robber might have touched.

FYI

Santa Barbara SCORE meets every Wednesday, from 8:30-11:30 a.m., at 402 E. Gutierrez St., Santa Barbara. No appointment is necessary. For more information, call 805.563.0084, visit www.santabarbarascore.org or register for counseling online.

The Santa Barbara SCORE Chapter publishes a great tool for aspiring entrepreneurs, How to Start a Business in Santa Barbara County.

After the robbery, don’t take the law into your own hands by retaliating. Call the police immediately.  Police officers are trained to handle incidents such as these. Let them do their job and pursue the robber. You can help them by noting how the robber escapes. If on foot, in what direction? If in a vehicle, try to get the license plate number.

By complying with the robber and paying attention to every detail, you can be a strong witness for the police when the perpetrator is apprehended.  Your testimony may be the only evidence in a robbery case, unless identifiable money from the crime is found in possession of the suspect. Some police departments recommend that retailers maintain a stack of “bait money” for just this purpose. Keep such money within easy reach of the register; never give this money out as change to your customers. The serial number and series year of each bill are recorded and stored in a safe place, so you can relay the information to police.

You can plug into a wealth of business know-how by contacting your Santa Barbara chapter of SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” SCORE counselors offer free, confidential advice about every aspect of starting, running and growing a successful business, even mentoring.

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