GLENDALE, Ariz. — Growing up in New York City, and operating multiple mats there for 41 years before retiring, I experienced a lot of crime! Over time, my stores were victimized by burglaries, larcenies, violent customer altercations, armed robberies, employee theft, quick-change artists, con jobs, loitering, and “grab & run” crimes.
I learned how to better protect my stores from these experiences. Some of these protections are creative foils for perps, and some are well-established, common-sense rules. Over this three-part article, I’ll list some well-known protections and point out the benefits from my experiences. Here are some more:
To Carry or Not to Carry — Carrying a gun is a very personal decision. I believe that you can die in a high-crime area either way, depending on the circumstances. I had a NYC carry permit for 30 years and it saved me and my employees on three separate occasions. However, every situation is different and carrying a pistol can easily get you killed if they get the drop on you, especially if there’s more than one perp.
How to Transport Money To/From Safely — I kept “bait money” on me to satisfy would-be robbers. Keep some money in your wallet, and a few hundred bucks more in your pants as bait, but keep your real collection money inside a bag of laundry. If you get jumped, don’t look the bad guy in the face. Just cooperate, and make no quick moves. Hand over your money and pull your pockets inside-out. When they ask for the real money, give them the bait money from your pants.
Some criminals are crazy and may harm you anyhow, but it’s must less likely if they get your bait money. In my experience, most criminals are drug addicts, and what they really want is money. They’ll think they got “your stash” and should leave.
“Buzz In” After Hours — One of my mats that was open and staffed 24/7 was located in a “borderline” neighborhood. During what I called the graveyard hours, my staff focused on getting the drop-offs done, and I also had someone cleaning the store. We did accept self-service customers, drop-offs and pickups during that time, but any had to be “buzzed in” (unlocked the door by command). Visitors had to use a doorbell, and cameras outside the doors alerted staff when someone was nearby. My crew was always wary if someone didn’t have laundry with them.
Be Cautious When Leaving — Thieves could be stalking you, the owner, to nail you in the parking lot or, worse, follow you home, endangering your family. Always vary your route home with several turns, and keep up your situational awareness.
I’ve known of some mats being built with a separate exterior door where the owner can come and go undetected. If your store has such a design and your VTM is a rear loader to the office, so much the better. Place a camera outside that exterior door so you can check the surroundings before leaving.
Your own customers may be friendly with bad guys and can rat you out (NYC police called this a “contract” because the customer got a piece of the action), so change the times when you show up and when you leave.
If Able, Lock All Doors from the Inside When Closing — We once experienced a break-in where they greased a kid’s body and slipped him in between the window bars. Once in, he opened the back door for the big guys. I learned from that, so I always had the doors locked from the inside after closing.
Years later, someone broke in through the roof at another mat. He dropped down, breaking through our drop ceiling and triggering the alarm and central station. Because the doors were all locked from the inside, he was trapped. Police driving by were able to see the dangling drop ceiling. The cops broke in through the front door, and two police dogs found the burglar hiding behind the dryers. He did two years prison time.
Remind Customers to Watch Their Belongings — People tend to relax in a laundromat after they’ve settled in. They focus on the tasks at hand and tend to neglect their personal belongings: cell phones, purses, etc.
Customers will steal from each other; I call them grab-and-run crimes. Post a sign to remind customers to secure their valuables and that you are not responsible for theft.
In Tuesday’s conclusion: Utility scams and preventing employee theft
Missed Part 1? You can read it HERE
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].