Crime Busting on Mac’s Store’s Priority List
THUNDER BAY – Crime News – Mac’s Convenience Stores have been impacted by robberies in Thunder Bay. Those robberies which usually lead to a swift arrest of the suspects by the Thunder Bay Police are a serious concern to Mac’s Convenience Stores. Sean Sportun, ICPS is the Manager, Security & Loss Prevention for the company. He is also the Vice Chair for Toronto Crimestoppers.
NetNewsLedger interviewed Sportun on the situation regarding Thunder Bay Mac’s Stores following a pair of recent robberies.
NNL: Mac’s Convenience Stores have policies in place to protect their employees. Without going into specific details, what kinds of measures help to keep staff and customers safe in your stores?
Sean Sportun: For the safety of our employees, there are a number of security measures in place that we cannot disclose. However, we can share the following policies and practices we have to ensure the safety of its staff and customers:
The first step to keeping our people safe is providing them with the knowledge to remain safe during their shift. Our mandatory security training, called “Operation Awareness”, encompasses a wide range of information on security-related topics, scenarios and procedures to follow. Employees must pass this training before working in our stores and it is followed by mandatory computer-based, quarterly testing to ensure the information remains fresh in the minds of our employees.
OPP Operation Awareness
This training program was adopted and endorsed by the Ontario Provincial Police in the development of the SafeGuard Ontario Small Business initiative
Each of our stores have a CCTV digital surveillance system, with cameras positioned in strategic locations to capture the movements of individuals who enter the store. This is further supported by a live Monitoring Centre that has the capability to remotely view stores and offers our law enforcement partners real time support for video when needed.
Both physical and virtual security inspections are conducted to ensure our employees are following the safety guidelines outlined in their training. As well, these inspections provide us with the opportunity to identify potential hazards and have them corrected immediately.
Studies show the physical environment of a location has a direct influence on the behavior of offenders, therefore Mac’s completes CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) surveys of each location and utilized principles specific to clear sight lines, lighting and blocking escape routes which can directly influence the decisions made by potential offenders based on their perceived risk of detection and apprehension
Specific to the City Of Thunder Bay, a uniformed security patrol was also implemented.
In addition, we have created a vision of “Crime Prevention Through Community Engagement” – which has been extremely effective for us at Mac’s.
Not only in the reduction of crime at our stores but more importantly, in the successful partnerships we have built within the communities where our stores are located across Ontario. Initiatives like our Positive Ticketing program, which are coupons that we provide police to hand out to youth they observe making a positive contribution in the community – breaking those barriers.
This was based on the simple philosophy that recognizing and rewarding youth for good behaviour will inspire and motivate others to follow suit, thus making the community a better place. This initiative has been endorsed by Public Safety Canada and recognized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police as an effective crime prevention tool (http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/cntrng-crm/plcng/cnmcs-plcng/ndx/snpss-eng.aspx?n=146) .
NNL: Mac’s Crimebusters gets images and video out to media and social media at a very fast timeline. How effective is that program?
Sean Sportun: The MacsCrimeBusters program is highly effective and the results speak for themselves. Since the inception on the program in February 2012, we have posted 164 images of alleged theft, fraud and robbery suspects from across Ontario requesting the community to call Crime Stoppers; resulting in 124 apprehensions and 137 cases being cleared.
The MacsCrimeBusters concept has received many compliments from all stakeholders – our employees, vendors, the community and various law enforcement agencies describe the initiative as an excellent “Intelligence tool” for investigators. The initiative has received International praise by many Social Media Professionals – most notability was at the 2012 Crime Stoppers International Conference in Las Vegas where MacsCrimeBusters was used as a model for other retail businesses to follow for the Success and Safety of the community. To further compliment this initiative, In October 2012 at the International Society of Crime Prevention Practitioners (ISCPP) conference, Mac’s received the prestigious “Business of The Year” award for what we are doing to prevent crime at our stores and in the community.
NNL: Some people think putting employees inside an enclosed barrier system would help prevent robberies?
Sean Sportun: Mac’s aggressively explores industry best practices to determine what security applications will be most effective in preventing crime, while enhancing the safety of our employees & customers. We appreciate some people view “barriers” as the ultimate solution in preventing incidents of robbery; and although on the surface it does seem like a logical solution – it simply isn’t. Barriers that have been suggested include, “pass thru windows” and “magnetic lock door entry system’s”. The “pas thru window” concept is more specific to a gasoline environment, mainly because consumers are already using the pay at the pump option with the on duty employee there to oversee the dispensing of fuel from an enclosed environment. That being said, using the “pass thru window” concept does offer the employee some security and limited physical interaction with the consumer but it leaves the consumer in an unsecured environment and in a compromising position to be victimized by the criminal element – so it does not prevent a robbery, it just creates a new victim. It has been noted by many that SHELL Stations use pass thru windows, but yet robberies still occur as seen on October 13, 2013.
When we look at the “magnetic lock door entry”, this concept can be easily compromised by simply piggy-backing into the store once the door is buzzed opened. It also creates a potential human rights issue because the employee is left to determine who they see as a potential threat and allow them entry or not. As well, this concept also creates a serious safety risk if an employee, under stress, forgets they have to buzz an offender out – if a situation like this should occur in the store, it could create potential harm toward the employee.
As you can see these applications may, on the surface, offer some protection to employees; but it also creates other risks and the transfer of victimization in doing so. For more insight on the deterrence of Convenience Store robberies, I would recommend reading research studies and other literature Dr. Rosemary Erickson’s has completed on this topic.
NNL: Mac’s Stores normally operate 24 hours a day. How many stores are closing early due to crime issues?
Is Thunder Bay unsual in this effort?
Sean Sportun: Mac’s Convenience Stores is a community retailer and traditionally operate 24hrs/7 days a week to meet the needs of our customer base. We have reduced our operating hours by closing between midnight-6am at a large number of our Thunder Bay locations due to the crime issues we have experienced since 2010, which is unfortunate and is specific to Thunder Bay.