Armed robberies prompts review of employee safety
With a store clerk who was the victim of an armed robbery recovering in hospital from a shotgun blast and another cashier recently receiving a death threat after thefts from the same store, concerns are growing about the safety of those who work at such stores.
Three times in two weeks, Fas Gas locations in Alberta have been the target of armed robberies, with two resulting in injuries. In Red Deer, the same West Park Fas Gas location was the scene of two incidents two weeks apart.
Red Deer RCMP said Jayson Arancon Reyes was shot in the face by a person with a sawed-off shotgun after he gave money to a suspect on Sept. 11.
Then late Tuesday evening, the store was the scene of another armed robbery. Two suspects stole lighters and then one, as he was leaving, drew a baton from his sleeve and threatened to kill a clerk. No one was injured and no money was taken.
A third incident took place at a Fas Gas in Okotoks on Sept. 20. A suspect stabbed the clerk as the employee was working behind the counter.
Buck Buchanan, a retired RCMP officer and owner manager of X-Cops, a private security company, was at the scene of the West Park Fas Gas shooting after the incident. While biohazard crews were cleaning up the store, he was looking to see if the suspect would return to the scene of the crime.
He said the best way to deter someone from attempted to rob a gas outlet or convenience store is to have two people working at the same time.
“The best way is the manpower way,” said Buchanan. “But that also becomes the cost way, too.”
He also suggested placing a glass barrier between the cashier and customer, even though it could negatively impact the customer experience.
“What you do on one hand on the security side you deteriorate on the other side with your customer interaction,” said Buchanan.
“We so much as Canadians want to still be able to have that interaction with people. You go to some bigger American cities and you just don’t get that experience.”
Some convenience and gas stores have employees stand on an elevated platform. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design concepts suggest an elevated employee gives customers confidence in safety and increases employee control in the store.
The Fas Gas in West Park is one of the company’s newer designed gas stations and features a central kiosk with a complete view of the store.
“The safety and security measures we have in place follow industry standards and those are based primarily on 20 years of research into convenience store safety,” said Tom McMillan, Parkland Fuel Corp. spokesperson.
According to one study on convenience store safety done in 2000, commissioned by the U.S. National Association of Convenience Stores, having two staff on at all times does not necessarily decrease the risk of injury. In some cases, robbery incidents declined, but injury rates did not. Instead, it was likely both would be injured in a violent robbery, the study said.
“We have to let our health, safety and environment guys go in and do their analysis,” said McMillan. “If we do make changes to our policies and procedures there are some pretty huge implications for the retailers working the stores.
“We’re probably weeks away from making recommendations internally about what to do. Then in terms of committing to an action plan going forward, I don’t know what the timeline is on that. We’ve had so much happen in such a quick period of time.”
Video surveillance is one tool store owners can use, by letting people know they’re being watched shouldn’t be a secret.
“Anything that puts a face on a bad guy needs to be advertised,” said Buchanan, suggesting a huge sign informing people they are being recorded by video cameras.
“Most of the people committing robberies are doing them because they think they aren’t going to get caught. Anything you can do to spin the dial in your favour as a business saying someone is front and centre on our video.”
But even then some people will attempt to steal. Buchanan said addiction can lead people to think about their next fix and not the consequences of their actions.
“In some instances the only thing between them and their next hit is you,” said Buchanan. “If that’s the case they have to go through you to meet their needs.”
Two people have been arrested in relation to the shooting incident. Jeffrey Lyle Geary, 31, of no fixed address, faces charges of attempted murder and robbery with a weapon charges. Eric Michael Ayotte, 29, of no fixed address, is charged with using a sawed-off shotgun to commit a robbery.
Police are looking for two people in relation to the most recent robbery. A male suspect is described as Caucasian between the ages of 20 and 25, wearing a ball cap and dark jacket. He has a thin beard along the jaw line and circular tattoos bordering his face. The second suspect is described as a female aboriginal between the ages of 25 and 30 with dark hair, wearing a camouflage jacket and thick rimmed glasses.
If anyone has information about this incident, they are asked to call Red Deer RCMP at 403-343-5575 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.