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Prevention of armed hold-ups and robbery with violence

Media Release

20 November 2000

In response to rising levels of public concern over violence in the workplace, the Australian Institute of Criminology is producing a series of publications, the third of which was launched today.

Violence in the Workplace-Preventing Armed Robbery: A Practical Handbook by Dr Claire Mayhew aims to help prevent violence associated with armed hold-ups and robberies in the workplace.

"Armed hold-ups and robbery with violence are significant concerns for businesses", Dr Adam Graycar, Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology said today.

"The level of risk varies from job to job within industry sectors. Many workers are at risk because they work in businesses with cash on hand where basic prevention strategies have not been implemented. In some instances the same business outlets are held-up over and over again", Dr Graycar said.

The incident may involve a one-off physical act of violence that results in a fatal or non-fatal injury with loss of goods or money or it may involve threats that result in loss of goods or money but do not result in a physical injury - although there may be significant emotional impacts on the workforce.

Incidents can include threats or demands using a weapon, minor or severe assault, damage to property, stealing money or goods, theft of vehicles and contents, vandalism, hostage-taking or homicide.

Violence in the Workplace-Preventing Armed Robbery: A Practical Handbook includes discussions on:

  • the importance of careful work site, fittings, and environmental designs, known as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design or CPTED;
  • minimisation of risk through 'target hardening', 'increasing visibility' and 'reducing rewards' strategies;
  • well-designed cash control strategies; and
  • a series of detailed draft prevention policy and strategy documents and checklists which employers can adopt and adapt to specific on-site risks.

References

Extracts

A woman was working alone at a Real Estate office in inner Sydney. A man in a leather jacket entered the office and produced a shotgun:

  • the man forced the barrel of the shotgun into the woman's mouth and up and down her spine, buttocks and between her legs
  • the assailant threatened to 'blow her head off' if she did not give him money
  • he took petty cash from a tin, the safe and the woman's handbag
  • the woman subsequently developed post traumatic stress disorder, attempted suicide, and was unable to return to full-time employment

Outcome: on 21 June 2000 Judge Puckeridge of the NSW District Court ruled that the woman's employer had failed in its duty of care by allowing her to work alone in a position in which she was not clearly visible from the outside, by not providing ready access to a security alarm button, not supplying a time-delay safe, and not displaying signs stating that there was no cash on premises. That is, the real estate firm had not taken appropriate steps to maximise employee safety. The woman was awarded $792,271 in compensation. However, this judgement and award will be appealed by the WorkCover insurer (Knowles, 22/6/00:1,4).


Australian security firm employees were picking up the weekend's takings from a city car park. This was a routine pick up. The roof was too low in the car park to allow the security van to enter, so the driver and the van remained outside on the road whilst two security guards collected the money:

  • as the guards walked back towards the security vehicle with the money, two men jumped from the back of a parked van
  • one security guard was shot and died of a single gunshot wound to the chest
  • the other security guard was threatened
  • the assailants took the money and jumped into the back of their van, which sped to the end of the car park

Outcome: three men were seen running away from the scene; they were never identified. There was no mention in the coronial report of whether or not the fatally wounded guard wore a bullet-proof vest (NOHSC, 2000:4).


A man had a stable childhood and family life and was employed as a bank officer for nearly thirty years:

  • one day "a spaced out drug-nut waving a pistol" held up the bank where he worked
  • a year later during a second hold-up, a man wearing a motor cycle helmet pointed a double barrelled shotgun at him at close range
  • he suffered vivid regular nightmares for months after the second hold-up and three years later was still having intrusive "recalls" during the day
  • one day a customer walked in the bank with a motorcycle helmet on and the bank officer "froze". Subsequently there was a minor altercation with an abusive customer, and another staff member questioned his capacity to do his job.

Outcome: his condition deteriorated and he had time off. When he attempted to enter any bank branches he had panic attacks and starting shaking and crying and ran away. Chronic post traumatic stress disorder was diagnosed.