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Insight from WFPD: Armed robberies hit the news

Recent armed robberies have occupied the news for days. It is somewhat of a relief to see the extended media coverage. The media's intense interest can be seen as an indicator of the low rate of serious crimes we enjoy in this area in comparison to other metropolitan areas. That said, we still have little tolerance for crimes which occur in our communities.

Robberies require an opportunity provided by the victim and motivation on the part of the criminal. Financial institutions are typically targeted due to the perception they are full of money. Management recognizes the threat and has developed procedures and installed electronic equipment and other devises to discourage criminals. Because of the safeguards in place robberies involving financial institutions have a high probability of being solved and the criminal arrested.

Convenience stores are another likely target for a robbery, in part, because of their convenient location. Most are located along at least one major roadway allowing for easy access. Hours of operation at the store may be 24 hours or extend into the night when there may be less customer traffic. Staff in some stores can also be distracted with additional job duties of cleaning or stocking shelves. At most locations management has developed procedures to reduce the vulnerability of the store. They have limited the amount of money available to the staff; adjusted staffing and job duties; or installed electronic equipment, barriers or additional lighting.

Awareness is the biggest deterrent of a successful robbery. Criminals tend to avoid a person who remains aware of their surroundings and other people in the area. Watching for and reporting suspicious activity can reduce the chance you or someone else will be victim.

Other tips to avoid becoming the target of a robbery include not letting others know what things of value you are carrying. Don't become absorbed in an activity that takes your attention away from what is going on around you. Be familiar with the area you are traveling into. Before leaving or going into a building look around to see who is there and what may be going on. Have your vehicle keys in your hand before going outside. Have your house keys in your hand before leaving your vehicle. Develop a plan in your mind as to how you will react if you are confronted.

Past experience indicates your best course of action during a robbery to give the criminal what they are demanding. In most cases, the criminal will take the property and leave. The value of the property is seldom worth you or someone else being injured. If you are unfortunate enough to become a victim, strive to become a good witness. Pay close attention to what you see, hear and smell. Look for things to provide an accurate physical description such as sex; height; color of hair, skin and eyes; clothing; unusual markings or movements. Listen for speech patterns and ascents. Take note of any odors.

The Police Department has a limited number of officers on the street at any one time. We are not able to be every where to see what is happening. We depend on you to be our eyes and ears in the fight against crime. If you see something you feel is not right, report the suspicious activity by calling 701-433-5500 or 911. We would prefer to be called to an event at the time it is occurring and have the event be something innocent. It is disheartening to be called to a crime scene after the fact and hear someone say they had seen something but did not want to bother anyone by calling. Calls about suspicious activity are not a bother. They are part of you helping to keep our community safe.