Lately, convenience stores and minimarkets have been growing in numbers in Indonesia. The strategic location and extended operating hours of these stores make it easier for people who may need to, for example, buy their groceries without going to a supermarket.
Nevertheless, just as in other countries, the growing number of premises such as minimarkets and convenience stores in Indonesia brings some new problems to the society among which is crime.
Recently, there have been numerous reports of store robberies such as those in Jakarta and its surrounding area.
For decades, the problem of store robberies has been the subject of numerous studies all over the world by crime prevention experts and the results thereof have been used in formulating sound prevention measures.
A theory in criminology, the “Crime Triangle”, proposes that a crime commonly occurs upon the convergence of three factors; motivated offender, victim and absence of capable guardians.
Capable guardian in the conventional sense means the police or security guards. However, people who live in the neighborhood can also be “informal” guardians in deterring store robberies.
Based on a study of convenience store robbers in the US, for example, the most desirable characteristics of stores from robbers’ point of view are: remotely situated store, few customers, only one clerk on duty, easy access and get away and lots of cash kept on the premises.
In Australia, according to a report from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), convenience stores are among the most frequent target of armed robberies due to their characteristics (i.e. late trading hours and easy access to
These studies suggest that generally store robbers weigh the costs and benefits before committing their offences.
The benefits are commonly associated with, for example, the money or goods that offenders can take and the costs in this case are often associated with the risk of being caught during the act or later.
Many crime prevention experts believe that designing a safe environment is an effective solution in reducing the number of incidents of store robberies.
This method is also known as the Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) which has been applied worldwide. Crime prevention experts have long been attempting to formulate the most effective design of environment that will reduce crime by conducting various studies.
To date, however, there is still no “one size fits all” design for a crime-free environment possibly because there are too many elements to take into account.
In other words, different environments often need a different approach to crime prevention. Still, the results of the existing studies have been used as a basis for government and law enforcement agencies in formulating their strategies in reducing store robberies.
In the US, for example, the US Department of Justice (USDOJ) issued a problem-oriented guide for reducing convenience store robberies based on multiple studies in that country.
Based on the guidelines, factors such as operational hours, interior store layout, exterior store environment, location and store type contribute to the incidence of convenience store robberies.
In terms of operational hours, studies suggest late evening to early morning hours are high risk due to fewer people (e.g. customers, police, or passersby) who can provide formal or informal guardianship.
Based on a report from the AIC, for example, in Australia, nearly 90 percent of service station armed robberies occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.
In terms of store interiors, they should be arranged so as to enable employees to see their surroundings as well as to enable people outside to see into the store.
Keeping the exterior store environment brightly lit is also important for the store employees to see what is occurring outside the store. Additionally, limiting the availability of viable escape routes for offenders is also important for store security.
In terms of location, a store should not be established in high risk areas with many potential offenders and less capable guardians.
In order to reduce the number of store robberies, effective prevention measures must be put in place. Nevertheless, there is always the “business case” consideration for store owners to make such a decision.
Store owners, for example, may be reluctant to add more employees to look after the store due to the additional costs.
However, with the seemingly growing number of convenience store robberies in Indonesia, store owners may need to reconsider their “business case” equation as losses from such incidents may adversely affect their businesses’ operation.
They should invest more on crime prevention measures such as CCTV, employee training, better lighting, secure store layout, capable store security staff etc. to prevent the convergence of victims, offenders and lack of capable guardians.
The writer is the director of the Center for Forensic Accounting Studies at the Accounting Program of the Islamic University of Indonesia, Yogyakarta. He obtained his Masters and PhD in Forensic Accounting from the University of Wollongong, Australia