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Rehearsing for a robbery.

Rehearsing for a Robbery

ARMED ROBBERY CREATES A dangerous situation for employees of many businesses and financial institutions. Businesses can, and should, provide procedural training for their employees to minimize that risk.

Training employees in ways to deal with a robbery can reduce victims' psychological trauma. As a result, businesses benefit--victims can return to full productivity sooner than if they had never received any guidance. Exposing employees to robbery response training can also increase their confidence and better prepare them for hazards, reducing physical risk and resulting in a safer work environment.

Local police officials also benefit from companies who train workers in robbery response. When employees have been trained, investigators can respond to crime scenes that have been effectively secured, and police officers should receive better suspect descriptions from the victims.

Training programs for potential robbery victims generally fall into one of three categories: off-site, on-site, and role-playing or mock robbery training.

Off-site training requires removing trainees from their work environment and in some cases from their fellow workers. The trainer then exposes the trainees to information, displays, and audiovisuals. These sessions may occur in auditoriums, hotels, or other areas big enough to accommodate a large group. The benefit of off-site training is that the maximum number of trainees is reached in a minimum of sessions. Disadvantages of off-site training include too many distractions and the inability of employees to train with their own work group.

Employee training is best accomplished at the actual business location. On-site training incorporates all the design characteristics, both good and bad, of the work environment. Obviously, knowing how to use the business's layout reduces risk to the employee. As with off-site training, displays should be used to augment any lecture.

The business location is also the site of the third type of training, the mock robbery program. All the benefits of on-site training are used with the mock robbery program, and now role-playing is added. Role-playing can uniquely educate employees to the dangers inherent in any robbery. In addition, participating in and observing a mock robbery helps employees describe suspects, secure evidence, and familiarize themselves with the needs of law enforcement officers.

Mock robbery training can be conducted by company employees. However, many communities in the United States have law enforcement agencies that routinely provide mock robbery training, as well as the other training methods. Law enforcement agencies have always been partners with businesses in reducing robbery risk, but police investigators also benefit. They receive quality information from trained employees after a robbery takes place.

One Spokane, WA, case documented the robbery of two victims by the same criminal in less than one hour. The first employee was robbed at a theater ticket window. The victim had received no robbery training and could provide no description of the perpetrator and few other details after the holdup.

The same robber held up an employee of another business a short time later. This employee had participated in a mock robbery training program only two weeks prior to the incident. The second victim provided a complete description of the criminal and had all observable details written down before the police arrived.

Based on information gathered from the second robbery victim and evidence secured at the scene, investigators arrested a suspect within two days. Certainly it would seem that the second victim's training had a dramatic impact on her performance during and after the holdup.

Mock robberies coordinated with local law enforcement agencies are scheduled weeks and even months ahead to allow police program coordinators and business managers to schedule personnel who will train as well as those who will participate. Mock robberies usually occur before a business opens. Local uniformed police officers provide security and ensure that the exercise is not interpreted as a real holdup.

The police program coordinator briefs all participants on using the internal environment of the business to their benefit, preparation for the holdup, weapons display, observation skills, resisting a holdup, and crime scene security. Following the briefing, participants go to their workstations. Non-participants and observers are assigned to designated neutral areas of the business before the mock robbery.

A robber (an off-duty police officer) appears from within the building, where he or she has been hidden from participants. As the robber commits the crime, he or she makes contact with each individual. The would-be criminal has employees go through the procedures they would normally follow in such a situation. The robber then returns to his or her original location. Then employees secure the crime scene and fill out forms describing the robber as best they can.

At the conclusion of this activity, all participants and observers are reassembled in the briefing area. They compare their descriptions of the robber with the actual person, who has reappeared. When a critique is completed by the police program coordinator and bank or store manager, the program ends.

Based on hundreds of critique forms, almost all Spokane participants thought the mock robbery training had prepared them for real robberies better than other forms of training. Critique forms from local and federal law enforcement officers indicated similar conclusions. Also of note, law enforcement officials indicated feeling much more sympathy for real holdup victims who had witnessed the training programs than for those who had not been trained. IT SEEMS EASY TO INTERPRET THE MOCK robbery evaluations submitted by robbery trainees and law enforcement officers; however, these interpretations were subjective. A more objective appraisal of the program was needed. A doctoral candidate at Washington State University assisted in evaluating the mock robbery training given to banks and credit unions by the Spokane police department.

One hundred tellers at credit unions agreed to participate in the mock robbery training evaluation. These tellers were divided into groups of 25, with each group assigned to a training session given on four different evenings at a host credit union. Prior to training, all 25 employees watched a short video that showed a robbery taking place at a credit union. When the video finished, the 25 tellers were given two questionnaires to fill out.

The first questionnaire covered observations the tellers made during the video. This questionnaire measured the employees' demonstrative performance after watching the video. The second questionnaire measured each teller's self-efficacy (level of confidence and how each person thought he or she would react in a similar situation).

On completing the questionnaires, each teller received exactly the same mock robbery briefing described previously in this article. Then tellers were randomly selected and placed into one of four groups. Group 1 comprised of mock robbery participants. Members of group 2 were observers who watched the mock robbery in person in the same room. Participants in group 3 were allowed to watch the mock robbery on closed-circuit television but were isolated from the physical area. Group 4 was a control group whose participants did not observe any part of the mock robbery.

Groups 1, 2, and 3 went to their assigned positions in the host credit union. However, group 4 did not leave the briefing area. When the mock robbery occurred, group 1 participated, group 2 observed, and group 3 watched the events on CCTV. When the robbery segment was over, all three groups returned to the briefing room to join group 4.

Following a 15-minute debriefing of groups 1 to 3, all groups (1 to 4) watched a video of a staged robbery at another local credit union. Participants then completed questionnaires identical to those filled out earlier. Approximately two months after the group mock robbery evaluation, participants were recontacted by the researcher at their work locations. Participants watched a third video of a robbery a local credit union. Again, each participant filled out the same types of questionnaires.

The first measurements were taken using the questionnaires to determine an average of all participants' prior training. Although some persons had participated in a mock robbery program before, the researcher did not see this as a problem. The scores were averaged to prevent skewed data.

The second measuring was given after all employees had received some type of training. The control group (4) received only a lecture, and it was expected that this group would be relatively stable at subsequent measurings.

The third measuring with the questionnaires was to determine which method and which group maintained higher scores over time. The method with the highest scores, in theory, would be the best training method.

On the actual description sheets, there was a statistically significant difference between groups at the first and second measuring. All groups were better able to describe robbers after training than before. This held true for the third measuring: All groups scored significantly higher after 60 days than they did initially, which indicated that the training maintains well over a 60-day time span.

Data received from the self-efficacy questionnaire was similar. All groups scored higher (more confident) at the second and third measurements than they did initially. This type of outcome was expected. The training was worthwhile, and this was documented. But finding the scenario that produces the best results was also part of the quest. Unfortunately, no statistically significant difference was documented among the groups at any time.

Note that the Spokane police department's mock robbery program contains elements of each tested scenario. Each mock robbery program has participants (group 1) and observers (group 2). Depending on circumstances at the business, some employees may elect not to be in the same room at the time of the mock robbery, They may, however, wish to watch on television or through an office window (group 3). Additionally, all employees are given the robbery lecture or briefing whether they participate in the mock robbery or not (group 4).

While participant groups 1 and 2 seem to have done well in the survey, a practice now in place with the Spokane program could be suggested. Each time a participant goes through a mock robbery program, he or she should become an observer during the next training program. Participants and observers see and experience situations differently.

Participants do well in responding to commands, making observations, and even accessing their cash drawers. Yet they are limited by their individual contact with the robber, and their concentration is such that they experience tunnel vision. Observers, on the other hand, see each robbery contact and are not generally focused on response-oriented items. They tend to make observations that participants miss.

Regardless of the scenario type, robbery training should be a routine experience for employees of high-risk businesses. Confident and competent employees will be the result.

PHOTO : Participating in and observing a mock robbery helps employees describe suspects, secure evidence, and familiarize themselves with the needs of law enforcement officers.

John D. Moore, CPP, is project manager for the Crime Prevention Center with the Spokane police department. Roger L. Gehrig, MS, is field supervisor for the department's patrol division.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:robbery response training for employees
Author:Moore, John D.; Gehrig, Roger L.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Aug 1, 1991
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