Service Station Armed Robbery in Australia

Article excerpt

Foreword | The incidence of service station armed robbery has steadily increased over the past decade. Using the Australian Institute of Criminology's National Armed Robbery Monitoring Program (NARMP) data, this paper examines the incidence of armed robbery at service stations and profiles the offenders involved. The NARMP data shows that about one in ten armed robberies in Australia were of service stations, and that these were more likely to be targeted at night by lone offenders using knives. The most common item stolen was cash, with an average value of $643. The relative youth of the offenders- on average 23 years oldend infrequent use of firearms suggests the armed robberies involved little if any planning. This opportunistic targeting of service stations has been attributed to their extended opening hours, their sale of cigarettes and other exchangeable goods, their high volume of cash transactions and their isolation from other businesses. Widespread adoption of crime prevention measures by service stations, such as transfer trays, could help reduce their risk of being robbed, but the paper cautions that displacement effects should be considered prior to the implementation of new countermeasures.

Judy Putt

General Manager, Research

Since the late 1 98Os, there has been a steady increase in the rate of armed and unarmed robbery in Australia (Taylor 2004). The increase in armed robbery has been identified by law enforcement, media and the general public as being of concern due to the possibility of members of the public becoming incidental victims during an armed robbery occurrence. Armed robbery is defined as the unlawful taking of property, with the Intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property, from the Immediate possession of a person, or an organisation, or control, custody or care of a person, Involving the use of a weapon (ABS 2007:51).

The National Armed Robbery Monitoring Program (NARMP) conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), identified commercial outlets as being particularly vulnerable to armed robbery. In 2005, almost half (45%) of all armed robberies occurred in these outlets (Borzycki 2008). Between 1 993 and 2000, the incidence of armed robbery of service stations increased by 214 percent (AIC 2002). This trend has continued, with a 31 percent increase in the number of incidents in the three years from 2004-06. Service stations are generally deemed to be at a high risk of armed robbery due to extended opening hours (South Australian Police 2006), their sale of cigarettes and other readily exchangeable goods, their high volume of cash transactions (Australian Institute of Petroleum 2002) and their isolation from other businesses (AIC 2002). Research indicates that convenience stores and service stations are comparable in relation to victimisation and their vulnerability can be partly attributed to a lack of adequate security measures (AIC 2002).

Prior research indicates that crime prevention measures such as target hardening, comprising measures employed to make a location more difficult to target e.g. introducing closed circuit television (CCTV), are effective in preventing service station armed robbery (Mouzos & Carcach 2001). This paper presents an overview of trends in service station armed robbery. It discusses issues relevant to this type of offence, including an offender profile, and offers a review of target-hardening measures open to service station employees and franchisees.

Service stations as targets

Research on the prevalence of service station armed robbery has been intermittent. Comparable locations such as convenience stores, which have similar characteristics to service stations (i.e. late trading hours and easy access to merchandise), are also frequent targets of armed robbery attacks (Petrosino & Brensibler 2003). In the United States, prisoners interviewed as part of a study investigating armed robbery indicated that they viewed convenience stores as particularly easy targets, referring to them as 'stop and robs' (Petrosino & Brensibler 2003). …