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For retail security, there’s every sign that 2022 will be a continuation of recent trends. In a February 2021 presentation for ISC Security and the jewelry industry trade group JCK Pro, Rob Reiter, co-founder of the Storefront Safety Council, warned retailers that:
“The notion that safe and secure is no longer very safe and secure has been tested in 2020 and will continue to be tested … The attack on the Capitol on 6 January 2021 was an experience I think that’s a wake-up call, not just for government, but certainly for high-end retail and even mom-and-pop jewelry stores in shopping malls or on main street.”
Total Security Solutions installation manager Trevor Smith has been helping both high-end and mom-and-pop retailers address this new retail reality.
Recent Trends in Retail Security
Despite being relatively low-impact indoor work, retail work accounts for roughly one-third of all workplace fatalities. As the CDC recently noted: “robbery-related homicides and assaults are the leading cause of death in retail businesses.” Workers in convenience stores, for example, are 14 times more likely to die due to work-related violence than the average American worker. Unsurprisingly, the COVID pandemic appears to have aggravated this trend.
In response to the NRF’s 2021 National Retail Security Survey (the most recent available), 82% of loss prevention professionals noted that in-store violence has become more of a concern for their organization over the last five years. This especially the case in conjunction with robberies.
According to the report, “One potential driver behind the increases in robberies and shoplifting incidences is the growth in organized retail crime reported by retailers. About 69% of retailers said they had seen an increase in ORC activity over the past year … Most alarming: Retailers report these gangs are more aggressive and violent than in years past. Some 65% of respondents noted the increase in violence, while 37% said ORC gangs were much more aggressive than in the past. For comparison, in 2019, only 57% said ORC gangs were more aggressive with 31% saying they were much more aggressive.”
More than two-thirds of respondents said that COVID continued to drive increases in workplace violence and organized retail crime.
Retail Security: Jewelry and Coin Stores
Trevor Smith recently assisted a dealer in jewelry and precious coins near San Francisco. They’d weathered the pandemic well, but are in an area where “flash mob robberies” and ORC are on the rise.
“This was a customer that had purchased a barrier from us in the past,” Smith explained. “They were moving to a bigger location. So we took the old barrier that we installed, measured it for the new location, then engineered an add on to fill the new space.”
Now in place, the system looks like it’s always been there. But moving a bullet-resistant barrier from one location to another always poses challenges. “In this case, we had to re-fabricate half of the millwork to overcome an unforeseen obstacle in the field. It was the vault the customer was putting behind the barrier. We had to move the entire system forward in order to accommodate the ADA compliance of opening the safe.”
Note the acrylic louvers running above the bullet-resistant transaction windows. This is an excellent solution. It “fills space” above the bullet-resistant barrier without disrupting airflow. That preserves indoor air quality and comfort for both staff and customers. It also reduces the “fishbowl effect” that plague lower-quality security barriers, where large spans of bulletproof glass unnaturally muffle and bounce sound.
Because the louver is made from standard non-ballistic acrylic, it is significantly lighter and less expensive. Nonetheless, it still offers effective protection, preventing potential attackers from believing they can throw anything over the top to harm workers.
Increasing Gas Station/Convenience Store Safety and Security
But crime is by no means limited to jewelry shops and high-end luxury goods. Gas stations and convenience stores are among the top five locations for violent crime and the top location for workplace violence.
Here’s an example of a recent convenience store/gas station renovation TSS did in the Pacific Northwest.The metropolitan area around this location saw a 20% increase in violent crime (including robbery) in 2021.
The owners opted for a fairly standard hole-and-backer design, where an oversized six-inch talk thru port is backed with a ten-inch circle of rated acrylic. This can be a good solution, as it nicely balances ease of communication (reduced muffling and a clear view of the clerk’s face) while still being cost effective.
You’ll note that the gas station owner also chose to make this an “operable” system: the second window (all the way to the left, above the large metal passing drawer) is a “horizontal slider.” During daylight operating hours—when there is much more traffic and there is more staff on hand—the window can be left open to facilitate speedy transactions. After hours, or in cases when a staff member is forced to work alone, the slider can be closed and locked, minimizing risk.
Protecting People while Protecting Business
In most gas stations, the fuel station operators only earn a few cents per gallon sold. The primary source of revenue is selling convenience items—snacks, and so forth. Having that fuel station staffed, but unable to sell snacks and beverages is a losing proposition.
“Gas stations that get passers or lazy susans are usually looking to do business at night through that tool,” Trevor Smith explains. “So if someone is looking to buy a case of beer at night, once that slider is locked down, it gives them the option of selling it through our passers or lazy susans.”
Since a lazy susan takes up a good deal of counter space, this gas station went with a different solution.
“They chose a custom passer that had to be integrated into the countertop. It was really a box used for an exterior application that we modified to work for the interior situation. This took some in-depth looks at the product and custom engineering to pull off.”