Training aims to help store owners, workers thwart robberies

Macon police Sgt. Raymond Reynolds was asked to inspect a Macon convenience store recently after shooting deaths at two stores.

Talking to 25 members of the Middle Georgia Asian-American Business Community Association on Tuesday, Reynolds said everything at the store checked out fine — except that the security cameras were set at too low an angle.

“The cameras were OK if the (robber) is 5-foot-6 like me,” he told the group. Then he pointed to police Maj. Tonnie Williams, who stands about a foot taller.

“If the guy was Maj. Williams’ size, the camera would go to about here on him,” said Reynolds, indicating his chest.

It’s little details like camera angles that can make the difference in whether police capture a bandit or not, Reynolds said.

After the slayings of Dipak “Danny” Patel and Jaymal Patel during separate robberies earlier this month, the Indian community has been active in trying to reduce crime. While Tuesday’s seminar won’t mean those businesses aren’t targets for future robberies, Reynolds said, many of the tips are designed to either dissuade criminals from picking a particular store or helping to capture a criminal if he does.

Lou Patel said the idea for the seminar grew out of meetings with local law enforcement officials.

“We wanted to learn how to make our environment safe,” he said. “We want to prevent this type of thing from happening again.”

Some of the businessmen asked about keeping a gun. Reynolds told them that the police will hold several firearms seminars in October, during which participants will not only be taught how to use a gun, but the legal issues involved in purchasing a gun and firing it.

But, as sheriff’s Lt. George Meadows told the group, owners and employees shouldn’t rely on having a gun.

“The best weapon you own is not the pistol you keep on your hip or on a counter, but your brain,” he said.

Reynolds, Williams and Meadows outlined several tips to the store owners:

Ÿ It’s important to keep businesses well-lighted, both inside and out. Lighting can deter crime and help identify a criminal. Store owners should also maintain landscaping on their property to make the area more visible.

Ÿ Owners should try to get the most modern security system — alarm and surveillance — they can.

Ÿ Doors should be made of sturdy material and should chime whenever they open. Also, glass doors and windows should be made of burglar-resistant materials and shouldn’t be tinted or reflective.

Ÿ Employees should be especially aware of their surroundings and try to get as many physical details about a robber as possible, such as size, clothes, shoes and any distinguishing features. If an employee is opening or closing the store or making a cash deposit, he or she should be alert in case anyone is casing the place or following the employee.

Roger Patel, one of Tuesday’s participants, owns several stores in Macon and Warner Robins. Two of his Macon stores were robbed, once last year and once this year. He said he believes the seminar gave him valuable tips to make the stores safer.

“I learned what things to watch for ... and what changes need to be made to the stores,” he said.

He has been much more alert ever since the slayings.

“Absolutely — they are always there on my mind,” he said. “I am being more cautious and I’ve told my employees to be more cautious.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.