At one time, banks were the only places in the United States one would see bullet resistant bandit barriers. That changed in the early 1970s when 7-Eleven began operating most of its stores on a 24-hour schedule. Competing convenience and party stores followed suit. More than a quarter of all robberies take place between midnight and 6am, and armed robbers swiftly shifted from bank heists to liquor store hold-ups.
CONVENIENT FOR THIEVES
From a cost-benefit analysis, a bank robbery is a terrible proposition: These are busy, main-street locations with solid security protocols. According to the US Department of Justice, the average bank robbery now nets only around $4,000 (often recovered), with 60 percent of bank robbers ultimately apprehended. The Department of Justice notes:
The likelihood of catching a bank robber on or near the scene is higher than for other crimes. This is because most bank robberies are reported very quickly, most occur during daylight hours, many have multiple witnesses, and some produce photographic images that can be used to canvass the surrounding area for suspects. Consequently, many robbers are caught the same day.
In the 1970s convenience stores and gas stations with extended hours of operation offered an attractive new target for criminals. The convenience store industry responded with new training and business practices, and ultimately embraced bandit barriers in high-crime areas. Convenience store robberies have subsequently decreased by 16 percent since the mid-1990s.
Along with improved security, changing business practices also make 24-hour fuel stations and stores less tempting targets: Credit card transactions account for the majority of transactions in these shops. Meaningful sums of cash are almost never permitted to accumulate in registers or staff-accessible safes.
FAST ATTACKS ON FAST FOOD
Since 2007, many quick-serve restaurants have begun keeping later hours, often staying open past 2am and having staff arrive as early as 4am–this places nearly 20 percent of the workday in the highest-crime hours of the night. Since credit card use has only become possible at fast food restaurants within the last several years, many patrons still expect to pay cash for their burgers and fries. Large sums can build up in registers and safes, and are counted down in the wee hours by managers themselves just finishing a full day of hot, hectic work. To top it off, late-night fast food restaurants are usually located near expressways and other major roadways, making a quick getaway all the easier for armed bandits like these:
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that homicides at fast-food restaurants declined in 2009, the rate of assault on fast-food workers is still roughly twice as high as that at sit-down restaurants: 1.8 per 10,000 workers.
BANDIT BARRIERS PROTECT WORKERS
With quick-serve chains making such attractive targets, many industry analysts wonder if enough security is being deployed during these high-crime hours. “Some fast-food chains have come up with special food menus after midnight,” says James Alan Fox, a Northeastern University criminology professor and Crime & Punishment blogger for the Boston Globe, “But what they really need are special late-night security menus.” While security cameras and guards can obviously aid investigation following a crime, many fast-food locations are opting to prevent attacks altogether with custom bandit barriers.