NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – After three robberies at 7-Eleven stores within about half an hour from each other in Hampton Roads early Wednesday morning, 10 On Your Side talked to security experts about what could be done to make convenience stores less inviting to criminals.
“Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula,” said Brandon Dean, president of Silbar Security and former police officer. “These stores, by design, make it a prime pick for a suspect, they can get in and out quickly.”
Dean says 7-Eleven stores can be particularly vulnerable because part of their appeal is being accessible, meaning they’re open at all hours and typically don’t have bars on the windows.
What they do have on the windows – advertisements – creates a problem, according to Portsmouth Police Detective Misty Holley.
“That advertising that you see on the windows is prohibiting the employees from seeing outside,” she said. “The would-be robber can also walk up to the store, look into the store, and not even be noticed by the employees inside, if they’re casing the store.”
Holley says business owners can protect themselves and their employees by installing high-definition security systems, particularly one directly behind the register, facing customers.
“That’s one of the biggest problems, when we investigate these types of incidents, you don’t have a clear view of the suspect’s face,” she said.
Holley says investigators also end up with thousands of fingerprints from a crime scene, because of the amount of traffic that goes through a convenience store on a typical day.
Simply wiping down door handles and the surface of the register more frequently could help police solve more robbery cases, according to Holley.
When a store is hit, Dean and Holley agree that customers and employees should comply with what the suspect demands.
“Never resist. Cash is replaceable, not your life,” said Dean, who also urges victims to remain as calm as they can. “Sometimes, the suspect misreads an employee’s nervousness as hesitation.”
“The biggest responsibility is for you to stay alive and be a good witness,” Holley said. “The way to do that is to comply with everything the suspect says.”
Also helpful to police: descriptions of what a suspect is wearing, any tattoos, piercings or scars, distinct accents or slang, nicknames spoken between accomplices, and whether they leave by car or on foot.
If you know anything about the unsolved case in Norfolk early Wednesday morning, call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.