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‘Don’t be a hero’ during armed robbery

Police. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

Close to 50 business owners and other concerned members of the public attended an information session last night about how to remain safe in the face of an armed robbery.

The Bermuda Police Service, in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce, organised the event after an increase in armed robberies since the start of the year. Seven premises have been targeted so far this year. In all but one of the incidences the crimes have been carried out by two people and have taken place between the hours of 7.30pm and 3am.

The session was led by Inspector Scott Devine who heads up the Central Community Action Team. He said that more sessions will be held in the East and West of the island as well as satellite sessions and information available online.

“Don’t be a hero and remain as calm as you possibly can,” was a point he was keen to stress. “We fully appreciate that if someone walks in and points what looks like a firearm at you then that is going to be a very traumatic experience but we are hoping that with a little bit of training and a little bit of practice and reinforcing these messages to your staff, then this will be ingrained in them.”

Mr Devine spoke of numerous measures that can be taken prior to a robbery to deter potential criminals from targeting a premises such as taking note of anyone seen in and around the property, particularly at opening and closing times. They may be looking at the stores fixtures and fittings, especially security cameras. He also said to be aware of anyone wearing inappropriate clothing for the weather such as heavy jackets and gloves on a warm day.

Mr Devine’s main message to people to remain safe during a robbery was: “Take no action that would jeopardise your own safety and consider all firearms to be real and loaded.”

He advised to follow the robbers’ directions but not to offer them more than they ask for. The main aim is to have them leave the store as quickly as possible. To avoid any panic, he said, shop workers may want to advise the robber of any unusual moves they may have to make to and assure them that they are co-operating.

Making a mental note of the robber’s appearance can contribute greatly towards securing a conviction. Things he said to look for are the robber’s race, age, height, sex, clothes, complexion, hair and eye colour and even accents and words used.

At one point during the session a man entered the room briefly and then walked back out. Mr Devine took the opportunity to ask the audience to recall details about his identity. The audience gave very mixed descriptions which enforced his message.

Speaking about what to do after a robbery, Mr Devine advised the audience to secure the premises and call the police immediately. The more witnesses who remain on the property the better. Anyone in the store should protect the crime scene and take note of anything the robber may have touched.

Speaking of security measures that can be taken Mr Devine began with CCTV cameras which not only serve as a deterrent but also help with identifying suspects. “Test your equipment and ensure they provide maximal coverage. Keep the premises well lit and do not obstruct windows — there may be a passer-by outside who could call the police.”

Other tips included installing cash register security, putting markers on the door or wall to help estimate the height of a robber, keeping the premises well lit and using signage outside that would put off a robber such as an indication that very little cash is kept on-site.

“You want your store to be less of a target than the store next door,” he said.

He went on: “Trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right trust your human intuition. Human instinct is a great skill.”

But a resounding message that came at the end of the session was: “Be your brother’s keeper”

He said that since 2009, the number of Neighbourhood Watch organisations on the island had trebled to 120.

“We can’t do this without you guys. We police the community with your consent. There are more of you than there are of us so if we don’t have your backing we can’t hold up our end of the deal. It is really empowering to see so many people here tonight.”

This message was reinforced by the new Minister for National Security Jeff Baron who took to the microphone at the end of the session. Responding to many questions from the audience about the need for a better police presence on the streets he said: “I have taken on board the comments about police presence. I will take that to the police executive.”

However, he stressed the importance of “establishing programmes and long-term measures to pull people away from this type of lifestyle.”