INDIANAPOLIS — The city continues battling a dangerous problem: There are well over 100 robberies of dollar stores every year in Indianapolis, police records show, and some of those are deadly.
Police say these robberies can add instability to neighborhoods as they traumatize the people impacted. Despite IMPD’s best efforts, the companies are not required to make adjustments to their security plans, even after a robbery or a string of robberies.
Kenneth Benge worked security for the Family Dollar on 25th and Sherman in 2019 when a man came into the store with a gun and attempted to rob it.
“I convinced the guy with the gun to lower his as I lowered mine, and they got what they came for and they left,” Benge said.
Benge said he was fired from this job because he was not allowed to carry a gun on the job, according to company rules.
“They actually fired us due to the fact that I was armed,” Benge said.
Taylor Wurr was guarding a Dollar General in Indy a few years ago. He said he was working security right after the clerk was fatally shot on May 27, 2018.
“I had to go in there and guard that store, and yeah, there was still blood on the cabinets, bullet holes in the cigarette case where the guy fired into it,” Wurr said. “And, they just opened back up.”
Robbers are hitting stores like Family Dollar, Dollar Tree and Dollar General often, and have been for years. We dug through two years of records and found these three companies were robbed 132 times in 2019, 122 times in 2020 and 46 times so far this year through the end of April.
There are 48 Dollar General stores in the city, fewer than 50 Family Dollars, and fewer than 30 Dollar Trees in Indianapolis.
“Some of these stores or businesses are in certain neighborhoods and they live close, and so it’s convenient for them,” said Capt. Dulin Nelson with IMPD’s Robbery Division.
It is a concerning trend for IMPD’s robbery unit.
“If certain stores in certain neighborhoods keep getting hit, that could discourage them from continuing to do business in that area,” Nelson said. “So, it affects all of us. It affects the stability of the neighborhood, and it could create food deserts in some cases.”
In the past three years, we’ve reported several dollar stores being robbed that resulted in an employee being shot or killed.
“The crime there is getting out of control with those family dollar general stores,” Wurr said. “I see it on the news all the time. Those are the ones that do get reported.”
Capt. Nelson said their department tries to work with businesses to help them prevent robberies.
“Try to have two or more employees when you close and open the store, make sure your business is well lit,” Nelson explained. “We point out the pros and the cons to following what we suggest.”
It is up to the companies to make changes. Benge and his former employer, Wurr, of Lonestar Security, say the stores put a price tag on the safety of their employees.
“It’s not safe,” Wurr said. “I’ve tried to get a car parked out front, tried to get a sign in the window, and they just would not do it. They said that’s extra cost we don’t want to account for.”
Dollar General did not take questions about their security protocols, instead sent this response:
“At Dollar General, we employ numerous measures designed to create and maintain a safe work environment for our employees and a safe shopping experience for our customers. As company policy, we do not publicly comment on our specific safety protocols to maintain the integrity of these measures and to support the safety of our employees, customers and neighbors.
As a standard practice, we provide training and education for employees on safety and security measures that are designed to prevent, deter and if necessary, respond to an issue. Our safety and security measures not only take federal and state laws and requirements into account, but also reflect the highest levels of retail industry standards and law enforcement agency recommendations.
In addition to our in-store policies, we partner with Indianapolis local officials to collaboratively help reduce crime at our stores and in the neighborhoods we proudly serve.“
Family Dollar and Dollar Tree also did not respond to questions regarding their security processes, only to confirm they do contract with Protos Security. A company spokesperson also provided this response:
“The safety and wellbeing of our associates and customers is our top priority.
We have a knowledgeable team in place, led by our experienced Senior Vice President of Loss Prevention, that is very focused on creating safer working and shopping environments. We tailor our store operations and security protocols, and are continually evaluating and enhancing on-premise security and surveillance systems. To ensure the integrity of our security program, we do not share specific details publicly.
We recently committed to a multi-million dollar upgrade of our security-related technologies, which are being installed in stores across the country, including Indianapolis.“