Will Panic Buttons Help Stem the Wave of Minimarket Robberies?
Bayu Marhaenjati & Zaky Pawas
CCTV cameras and security guards at minimarkets across the capital have failed to thwart the more than 20 robberies that have occurred since January, and police and desperate store owners are now considering a panic button.
“We are still studying [the panic button usage]. We will discuss several options, and in the near future we will talk about them with officials from Aprindo [the Indonesian Retail Merchants Association],” Jakarta Police spokesman, Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said, referring to the association that represents retailers across the country.
Rikwanto said police had earlier assisted convenience stores by installing surveillance cameras but admitted that such a schemes had drawbacks. He highlighted several robberies this year where the culprits threatened store clerks to force them to reveal where the recording devices were hidden.
A panic button, which alerts authorities that a robbery is taking place, would be a much better solution, he said.
“All this time we have been focusing on actions where we pursue, apprehend and investigate a crime,” he said. “We feel that this effort alone is not effective. So we are figuring out preventive measures like a panic button. This way, officers can get to the location quickly.”
Police, he said, still need to discuss the proposal with Aprindo before trying out the new idea. “Business-wise they need to figure out [which solution] would be effective and cost efficient.”
Panic buttons, Rikwanto said, have already been installed in several upmarket housing complexes as well as a number of banks. The existing systems send signals to the control stations, which are often local police precinct or a local private security headquarters.
“[Stores] can also install sirens so the noise will attract attention from the surrounding community or patrolling police officers,” Rikwanto said, adding that another plan is to install light-signaling devices in front of stores.
The latest incident occurred at 5 p.m. on Saturday at an Alfamart in South Tambun, Bekasi, east of Jakarta. Four masked robbers threatened store clerks with machetes and handguns before leaving with Rp 13.7 million ($1,500) from the safe and cash register.
Earlier this month, an Indomaret and an Alfamidi in Serpong, west of Jakarta, were robbed in a span of two days.
Police have noticed that thieves are becoming more brazen in their operations, targeting convenience stores located on busy streets, including Jalan Wahid Hasyim in Central Jakarta, and Jalan K.S. Tubun in West Jakarta.
Some store clerks said they were afraid of a possible robbery, but William, a clerk at a 7-Eleven in West Jakarta, felt that the neghborhood community patrol was a sufficient deterrent to would-be thieves.
Most of the heists are taking place late in the evening or early in the morning, however police said that at least five robbers took place during daytime hours.
Police have previously encouraged stores to take greater precautions.