Dealing with armed robbers

All armed offenders must be treated as dangerous. They are usually nervous and unpredictable. Some may also be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is important for you to:

Remain calm

Remaining calm can have two effects:

  • It can reduce the chance of the offender becoming agitated and reduce the risk of violence.
  • You can observe things more clearly and enhance your safety. Remaining calm in stressful situations is often difficult. Mentally preparing yourself and using positive statements during an event can help. Some helpful phrases are: be brave; keep quite; move naturally; stay in control; stay still; and above all, remain calm.

Appear submissive and compliant

Speak only if you need to answer the offender and always reply honestly. In a pressure situation people can say things that are unnecessary. This can increase the pressure, cause a breakdown in confidence and lead to panic. Keep your answers short, precise and positive using simple words and phrases, for example "The safe is closed and locked. I only have the money in the cash drawer."

Obeying the offender without question will enhance your personal safety as well as the safety of other staff and customers. Listening carefully to the offender will enable you to turn negative statements into positive ones. When you are told "Don't look" or "Don't move" think of "Look away" and "Stay still". Act promptly and efficiently and you will improve your chances of remaining safe.

Remain as far away from the offender as possible. When asked to hand over the money, place it on the counter and take a step back. This will ensure you don't crowd the offender and encroach on his or her comfort zone.

Keep your hands in sight at all times. Adopt a submissive, honest posture by keeping your hands open, away from your sides with the palms facing the offender. If you need to move your hands out of the offender's sight, ask them for permission, for example "I have to get a bag from under the counter, OK?" Wait for approval before proceeding.

Turning side on to the offender can make you look less threatening by making you look smaller. It also presents less of a target to the offender to hit and allows you to protect yourself with your arm.

Raise the alarm only when safe

Alarms should only be activated if it is completely safe to do so. If there is any risks of the offender reacting badly or seeing you activate the alarm, wait until they have left the premises.

Once the offender has left, secure the premises, cordon off the immediate area and call the police. Place a notice in the front window stating you are closed due to an armed robbery.

Assist the police

To assist the police following an armed robbery, please note the following:

  • the time of the offence
  • the time the offender left the premises
  • the weapon/s used or implied
  • a description of the offender (visit Identify and offender for a guide on how to record a description)
  • what the offender took
  • any evidence at the scene
  • the direction the offender left in
  • any transportation the offender used including type, make, model, colour, registration and number of occupants
  • witnesses to the event (they should still be in the premises).

If a witness wants to leave, you have no rights to hold them. Ask them to provide some identification and take down all their details before they go. Ensure you get contact phone numbers and address details. Write down a description of the witness as well. Hand this to police as soon as they arrive. Offenders sometimes have accomplices posing as customers during a robbery.

Observing offenders

The way you observe the armed robber may reduce the risk of personal harm, for example:

  • Avoid direct eye contact. Don't stare, as this would be perceived as threatening to the offender.
  • Observe by short glances. When it is safe to do so. Keep your eyes down and look at the chin of the offender and use your peripheral vision to obtain details. This is less threatening to the offender.
  • Look for the facts. There is no typical stereotype for offenders. Be sure of what you actually see.
  • Write down your story. Run through the events and record as much detail as you possibly can. You never know what may seem unimportant but may turn out to be a vital piece of evidence that can solve the case.