What Does Science Say about Crime Prevention?

Article excerpt

During the course of an average week, more than 810,000 workers serve 494 million customers in the 95,000 convenience stores in the United States. In such a high activity environment, deterring crime and maintaining the safety of employees and customers requires implementing valid crime deterrent measures.

To effectively address store security, the convenience store industry has, since the early 1970s, committed substantial resources to conducting security research and making crime deterrent recommendations to the industry. The chief result of this research is Keys to Robbery Deterrence and Personal Safety, the first industrywide crime deterrence program, developed by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

Launched in 1987, Keys to Robbery Deterrence teaches and reinforces the basic concepts of convenience store security and personal safety - ash control, good lighting and visibility, customer awareness, police involvement, and employee training. The program is not an industry standard or model - rather, it is a set of guidelines for companies as they develop store-specific security programs.

The effectiveness of Keys to Robbery Deterrence can be measured by a consistent decline in convenience store robbery as measured by the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR). According to the 1996 UCR, convenience store robbery has declined by 26 percent since 1992 the largest decline across all measured business categories.

In April 1998, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its Recommendations for Workplace Violence Prevention Programs in Late-Night Retail Establishments, marking the first time OSHA has put its imprimatur on specific retail crime prevention measures.

OSHA recommends the following five-part program: (1) management commitment and employee involvement in developing security procedures; (2) conduct of a site analysis to identify existing and potential hazards; (3) implementation of control measures, such as cash control procedures, height markers on exit doors to help witnesses provide more complete assailant descriptions, and door detectors to alert employees when persons enter the store; (4) staff training; and (5) periodic evaluation of the program.

Many of the strategies researched, developed, and first launched by the convenience store industry have been incorporated in the OSHA recommendations. OSHA's recommendations are, for the most part, prudent and supported by sound research. For that reason, the convenience store industry supports nearly all of the recommendations, and we will work to educate the entire industry on those recommendations proven to be effective deterrents.

We remain concerned, however, that two of OSHA's recommendations are unproven crime deterrent measures: the use of multiple (two) clerks during late night shifts and the installation of bullet-resistant barriers. At this time, NACS cannot support or recommend either of these measures.

NACS's overriding principle in crime deterrence is that the safety of convenience store employees and customers is better served by adopting proven and effective measures. The use of unproven measures could provide a false sense of security and exacerbate risks. For example, the presence of multiple clerks could cause employees to attempt to resist or overpower an assailant, even though any act of resistance is proven to increase the risk of violence by 50 percent.

Even the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), OSHA's own research arm, does not recommend the use of multiple clerks. Rosemary Erickson, Ph.D., of Athena Research Corporation, reviewed NIOSH's multiple clerk research and concluded, based in part on a 1997 NIOSH study, that OSHA lacks scientific evidence that two clerks reduce convenience store injuries. In fact, the NIOSH data suggest that two clerks may actually increase the number of injury incidents. …