Gasoline station workers rank fourth among US occupations with the highest rates of occupational homicides, with almost all occurring during attempted armed robberies or other crimes (NIOSH 1993b). The recent trend to replace repair shops with convenience stores has made them even more of a target. Study of the circumstances involved has led to the delineation of the following risk factors for such criminal violence:
- exchange of money with the public
- working alone or in small numbers
- working late night or early morning hours
- working in high-crime areas
- guarding valuable property or possessions
- working in community settings.
An additional risk factor is being in locations that are readily accessible and particularly suited to quick getaways.
To defend themselves against attempted robberies, some gasoline station workers have provided themselves with baseball bats or other cudgels and even acquired firearms. Most police authorities oppose such measures, arguing that they are likely to provoke violent reactions on the part of the criminals. The following preventive measures are suggested as more effective deterrents of robbery attempts:
- bright lighting of the gasoline pump and parking areas and of the interiors of stores and cashier’s areas
- large, unobstructed, bullet-resistant windows to enhance the visibility of the interior of the store and enclosures of bullet-resistant glass for the cashier
- separate outside entrances to any public rest rooms so that persons using them do not have to enter the store. (A separate, indoor, employee-only rest room would provide privacy for employees and obviate the need for them to go outside to use the public restroom.)
- provision of drop-boxes and time-release safes to hold all but a very limited amount of cash, as well as highly visible signs indicating their use
- establishing a policy of not making change for cash purchases during night and early morning hours
- hiring an additional worker or a security guard so that the worker is never alone (operators of gasoline stations and convenience stores object to the additional cost)
- installing an electrical or electronic alarm system (triggered by easily accessed “panic” buttons) that will provide audible and visual distress signals to attract police or other assistance—this can be combined with an alarm wired directly to a local police station
- installing high-fidelity television monitors to assist in identifying and, ultimately, apprehending the perpetrator(s).
Consultation with local police authorities and crime-prevention experts will assist in the selection of the most appropriate and cost-effective deterrents. It must be remembered that the equipment should be properly installed and periodically tested and maintained, and that the workers must be trained in its use.