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Fighting Back Against Violent Crime in Video Stores

26 Jan, 2003 By: Kurt Indvik

It's a sad fact that there are people in this world for whom the value of a life is worth less than the few hundred dollars (or less) in the till the poor clerk with a gun to his face is being asked to open.

It's also a sad fact that the video store is a natural target for this type of crime, and that this type of crime sometimes leads to violence, serious injury or even death.

This came all too horribly into focus last May, when a gunman, in the course of robbing a Blockbuster store in Anniston, Ala., shot and killed four men, including two employees.

This was far from the first time someone was shot and killed in a video store, and was just one of several homicides in video stores in 2002 alone. But it ranks as one of the most horrific crimes to take place in one, and even back then it got us to thinking here at Video Store Magazine about the issues surrounding store security and violent crime prevention. This week we begin a multipart series on the subject by senior/online editor Holly J. Wagner that will cover not just violent crime and ways to possibly prevent it, but also delve into nonviolent crime.

Video stores handle a lot of small cash transactions that attract robbers. At many independents there typically is only one employee (larger chains may have two, but, more often than not, only one is behind the register.) Stores' windows are often partially covered with posters and promotional banners that can block views into the store from outside. And, unlike similar type businesses like a convenience or liquor store, one can hang out in a video store for quite a long time looking at titles without bringing any attention to oneself.

A recent Insta-Poll of video retailers conducted by VSM market research showed 15 percent of the respondents had been robbed in the past, and that more than 80 percent of the incidents, money was taken.

This is not a burglary, or even a grab-and-run type crime; we're talking in your face with a weapon to back up the threat (58 percent of robberies did involve a weapon, the poll showed).

Now, I know for most retailers the news that their stores are potential magnets for crime is not a revelation. The VSDA offers a variety of information about store security and a majority of poll respondents said they do conduct some employee training. But there is much you can do to improve security for your employees and customers. We'll explore these options in the coming series.

For instance, how many of you have asked your local law enforcement for a store security review? (The poll answer to that is just 28 percent.)

I look forward to hearing from you about this important issue in the coming weeks.


Have you experienced crime at your video business? Discuss your experiences and share prevention tips below or here.

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