Local News

Durham Police Operation Working To Make Store Thefts Less Convenient

Posted January 16, 2003 2:26 a.m. EST

— Armed robbers often have convenience stores in their cross hairs. For them, the businesses are an easy way to get quick cash.

A program in Durham is aimed at stopping that trend.

As a member of Operation Hard Target, Investigator Jerry Elliott's job is to help make convenience stores crime-free.

"We're basically making these places harder targets," Elliott said.

Last summer, officers noticed a rise in armed robberies of convenience stores and Hispanic marts.

"Multiple [robberies] during the day. Weekends were really bad. It was getting ridiculous and we had to do something," he said.

Elliott said just six months after Operation Hard Target was put into place, the program is paying off.

"I read the reports every day and the [numbers have] definitely dropped," he said.

Durham police

officers targeted 48 stores.

"We said 'Let's think like criminals.' Driving by, I could see why they were hit. They stood out like a sore thumb," Elliott said.

Officers noticed burnt-out lights, blocked views and surveillance equipment sitting out in the open.

"The first thing they'd notice is they're on camera. They'd say 'Hey, I'm gonna take that tape with me,'" Elliott said.

Police offer store owners advice, including keeping store windows clutter free. That way officers can drive by and make sure everything inside is OK.

"Everything's clear -- like lights everywhere and our windows," said Feisel Hamisi, an employee of one store. "I think it's safer working here."

Officers believe a little common sense goes a long way in making businesses hard targets.

Operation Hard Target is currently concentrated in one part of the city, but police are considering taking the program citywide.