No matter if you live just outside of East Bumfrey or in deepest downtown Manhattan, there is one high-crime area that we all visit on a regular basis. It’s a prime locality for robbery, assault and even murder, yet most of us don’t give it a second thought because it is such an integral part of our lives.
No, we’re not talking about a bank or the local jewelry store. Those places do get knocked off on a regular basis but the location that experiences 10 times the mayhem is your local convenience store.
Convenience stores are the modern incarnation of the old General Store, selling gasoline, cigarettes, candy, beer and the other necessary provisions of modern life on every other street corner. However, those in the law enforcement business collectively refer to them as the local “Stop-N-Rob.”
Convenience stores, for multiple reasons, are very attractive to trouble. A quick look at crime statistics shows that thefts, assaults and even homicide occur with astonishing regularity and the list of victims is evenly split between the clerks and the customers.
Since running into such locations for milk, gas, or cigarettes is nearly a daily event in our lives, there are some things to consider that will help you remain safe while picking up that afternoon newspaper and a chopped-and-formed meat-flavored snack stick.
Though you might be expecting something a bit more profound out of the chute, our favorite “tactical” concept applies here in spades: awareness. The moment you pull into the parking lot, all your senses should be on high alert to recognize the possible problems waiting in the wings.
While still rolling, notice what kinds of characters are hanging around. Anyone loitering is suspect, but anyone lurking around the sides or rear of the building is virtually guaranteed to be involved in nefarious activity, no matter what time of day or night. If there is a large group or several clusters of people hanging around the parking lot, just keep on going. All those folks are likely involved in an “underground economy” you don’t want to be anywhere near.
Don’t rush into the store with your head down while trying to remember your shopping list. Approach the building at an easy saunter while scrutinizing the immediate area. Make it a habit to scope out the entire interior of the building as soon as you enter the door, paying special attention to what is happening at the cash register. Check that the gentleman talking to the clerk is buying lottery tickets instead of making a withdrawal at gunpoint.
After determining there isn’t a robbery in progress, make a quick 180-degrees glance around the store to notice anything else that seems out of the ordinary. During less-busy hours, the clerk might not be immediately seen but try to determine if he is just hanging out in the back room playing slap-and-tickle with his girlfriend or if he has been shot and dragged into the beer cooler.
This seems blatantly obvious but I once responded to an incident where an early-morning customer blithely strolled into a scene that resembled something from a slasher movie. He walked past bloody hand and footprints, then stood at the checkout counter for a few moments until finally noticing blood spatters and signs of a struggle. He was definitely oblivious, at least until he finally noticed the unfortunate clerk’s body. Fortunately for the customer, the suspect had already left the business.
Once inside, keep tabs on what is happening around you; reflections from glass-door coolers and plastic drink dispensers are very useful in this regard. Also make a mental note of the store layout. The goal is not a detailed analysis of the floor plan but simply fixing in your mind where the back door or emergency exit is located. In most stores, the exit will either lie behind the cashier or near the restroom(s). Likewise, most have some type of a back room or stock room that could become a useful place to make a tactical retreat in case of robbery or other serious crime.
Why consider retreat? If you happen to be located in the furthest regions of the store when something bad happens, the best survival tactic is to quietly slip away like a thief in the night at the first sign of trouble. Even if you can’t exit the business, having an idea of the layout allows you to possibly set up a last-ditch confrontation on your own terms rather than simply being herded at gunpoint into a cooler on a one-way trip.
While the average robbery doesn’t involve homicide, history has shown that the walk-in cooler is a very common location for witnesses to be murdered so don’t allow yourself to be placed in such a circumstance. If ever taken hostage, remember that the suspect expects you to cower; do so, but use it to your advantage while planning a counter-attacker when the bad guy least expects.
What if you are near the cash register when a local junkie demands a no-interest loan? This is where staying cool and rational is key. Depending on the physical layout and situation, your best bet might be to play the role of frightened victim and good witness until the robbery is concluded.
On the other hand, if you really believe that something horrible is about to happen and you choose to intervene, do so with the subtly of a nuclear explosion as that situation pretty much defines the classic “short-range interpersonal violence” situation you have heard so much about. Once committed to intervening there is no option except winning or dying.
Hopefully things will never reach that point if you keep on your toes in regards to what is happening both inside and out. Finally, don’t dally about the store making purchase decisions and don’t stand around scratching off lottery tickets. The longer you stay in the store, the higher the odds that you will be present when something felonious happens.
That would definitely be a losing ticket.