This paper examines the vulnerability to robbery of service stations and pharmacies in Australia. Service stations are open for long hours, keep cash on the premises and have minimal staffing at night, all of which may be contributing factors for robbery. Pharmacies may be attractive targets because they stock drugs. Data in this paper on the prevalence of robbery in these two retail sectors are drawn from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and from a major national survey of crime against small business conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology. The data show that since 1993 the proportion of all robberies occurring at service stations has risen substantially, while the proportion of all robberies occurring at pharmacies has remained stable. Of the service stations and pharmacies surveyed in the Small Business Crime Survey, eight per cent of service stations and 11 per cent of pharmacies reported at least one incident of robbery in the previous 12 months.
Further, 80 per cent of robberies occurring at service stations had only one staff member on duty, while a majority of robberies at pharmacies (52%) occurred with two or more staff members present.
Repeat victimisation is a key factor in understanding robbery; five per cent of all pharmacies and service stations in the sample accounted for almost three-quarters (72%) of all reported robbery incidents.
Research into this kind of business victimisation is essential for developing programs and practices to reduce robbery - and vulnerability to robbery - and is a key task of the Australian Institute of Criminology's Small Business Crime Prevention program. It will complement the AICs National Armed Robbery Monitoring Program which commenced in 2001.
The increasing incidence of armed and unarmed robbery in Australia in recent years is cause for concern, not least because of the enormous psychological and physical impact that robberies have on victims. While banks have increased target hardening by installing measures such as bulletproof screens, camera surveillance, upgraded alarm systems and armed guards (Clarke 1990), thus making robbery more difficult to achieve, businesses that are financially less able to provide increased security remain vulnerable. Other factors may also make certain types of business more vulnerable to robbery. If the motivation for robbery is to obtain money quickly to pay for drugs or alcohol, for example, then businesses that are open late, exchange cash and are minimally staffed may be at heightened risk. Service stations are one obvious target for robbery because they exchange money with customers, are often open late at night, provide easy access, are usually not located in close proximity to other businesses, and have minimal traffic at night (Hume 1996; Mayhew 2000). Pharmacies are also presumably at risk due to the fact that drugs are kept on the premises and many stay open until late (Rotherham 1999).
While it is likely that service stations and pharmacies may be at heightened risk of robbery, the nature and extent of robberies against these types of businesses have not been investigated in detail. It is also unknown whether the risks of robbery may be greater, say, at service stations than pharmacies or household residences. Drawing on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and from the Australian Institute of Criminology's Small Business Crime Survey, this paper provides an overview of recent trends in robbery and a comparison of risks between service stations, pharmacies and other types of target in Australia.
Armed and Unarmed Robberies
For the purposes of this paper, and in line with the ABS (1999, p. 126), robbery is defined as:
the unlawful taking of property, without consent, under confrontational circumstances from the immediate possession, control, custody or care of a person, accompanied by force or threat of force or violence and/ or by placing the victim in fear. …