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Keep Your Gas Station Free from Crime

By Richard Parker: President of The Resource Center for Buying a Gas Station/C- Store™ and author of How To Buy A Good Gas Station/C-Store At A Great Price© .

Think for a moment about this description of a gas station for sale advertisement I read recently:

“Ideal, high-traffic location adjacent to a major Interstate. Easy on-and-off. Currently generating strong profits in all of the 24 hours it is open each day.”

Sounds great from a retailer’s perspective. The problem is, it sounds pretty good from a criminal’s perspective too. Doesn’t it?

If you were a crook who wanted to pull off a highway at 3:00 A.M., stick up a gas station and then disappear into the night, that gas station would be just about ideal. And if you were an employee who wanted to steal from the inventory of the store where he worked, what better time to do that than in the wee hours, when the boss is asleep at home?

Let’s face facts. All retailers need to be concerned about crime. The following varieties need to be considered – and prevented – by owners of gas station/convenience stores:

  • Stick-ups by violent (and sometimes armed) criminals.
  • Pilfering by employees – on either a small or a large scale.
  • Sales of tobacco or alcohol to underage customers. (Maybe the kid you hire to work the register at night creates a little “profit center” of her own by selling cigarettes to friends.)
  • Shoplifting.

Doesn’t sound too attractive, does it? Yet the following strategies can greatly discourage crime in gas station/convenience stores – and at relatively little expense to owners:

  • • Install bright outdoor lighting. Criminals really like the dark and will generally not victimize establishments where they need to park their cars under bright lights, and walk through well-lit areas, etc.
  • • Minimize hedges, fences, and other sight-blocking features. Sure, some nice plantings might pretty up your premises. But look at them the way a criminal does – they are great places to hide or to conceal a vehicle from view. 
  • Talk to the local police and review police blotter records to get an informed picture of crime in the area. Also ask the seller about whether the business has ever been the victim of crime. (He might not give you a complete report, but asking is a good idea nonetheless - and it is something you can easily research.)
  • Post signs stating that the premises are monitored by video security cameras – and make sure that your surveillance cameras are visible inside and outside your store. Note that surveillance cameras deter many different crimes: stick-ups, shoplifting, and pilfering by your own employees.
  • Install the latest equipment to monitor your inventory. In addition to the other benefits that such systems provide, they also allow you to detect inventory losses almost immediately. If any employees challenge you that these new anti-theft measures mean that you don’t “trust them”, explain it’s the complete opposite; you’re doing so to protect them!
  • Defend your building with good locks, alarmed exit doors and other deterrents that keep your inventory from literally “walking out the door.” A late-night employee will be less likely to sell cartons of cigarettes or cases of beer if he has to carry them out the front door of your establishment, where he will be seen by passing vehicles and video cameras.
  • Analyze and correct situations that lead to “drive-offs.” (This is gas station lingo for drivers who fill up their tanks and then drive away without paying.) Prominent installations of outdoor video cameras can help. So can the installation of automated payment systems that require customers to pay by card before filling their tanks – or to enter your business and pay before turning on the nozzle.
  • Have insurance in place that protects you from incurring catastrophic financial losses if one of your employees is injured in a hold-up or other crime.

In summary . . .

Can any gas station/convenience store be made completely free of crime? For that matter, can any retail business? Probably not. Yet with the simple preventions explained in this article, you can reduce the threat of crime to acceptable levels. You’ll learn even more in our guide, How to Buy a Good Gas Station/Convenience Store at a Great Price.

This article represents a fraction of what you’ll learn in How To Buy A Good Gas Station/C-Store At A Great Price© - the most widely used reference resource and strategy guide for anyone thinking about buying a gas station. Read a detailed listing of what you'll learn.

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