A robbery homicide occurred at the Burger King restaurant in Lindenhurst, Illinois in December 2006. I learned from the police investigation that the manager was found strangled on the floor in a pool of blood next to an empty safe. Apparently, this 45-year old female victim was scheduled to open the Burger King restaurant alone at 4am to prepare the daily bank deposit and take inventory.
The deceased manager was discovered at 5:15am by another Burger King employee who arrived to work. Homicide investigators found the back door to the restaurant locked, but the burglar alarm system turned off. The police are investigating.
This same manager had been the victim of another armed robbery at a Burger King restaurant in the nearby City of Antioch nine months earlier where she was also forced to open the safe.
My first impression was that this manager was accosted at the point of entry when she arrived alone in the dark. The fast-food industry has known since the 1970s that armed robbery risk is greatest during the opening and closing routine. The industry also realizes that giving restaurant managers keys to the restaurant and immediate access to the safe makes them vulnerable as a target for armed robbers and workplace violence.
My second impression was that this robbery homicide might be an inside job carried out by a current or former employee. The fast-food industry has known for years that a percentage of their reported armed robberies are perpetrated by people employed within these restaurant chains.
An Inside Job
Within a few days, the reason why this restaurant was robbed became apparent. It seems that the robbery suspect recently worked at this Burger King and had inside information about the restaurant security procedures and the manager's opening routine.
The police learned that the robbery suspect was an ex-felon and had served at least two prison terms in 1983 and 1996 for crimes like sexual assault, weapons charges, and aggravated restraint. He had also been charged with murdering a family in 1982, but had his life-sentence conviction overturned due to evidence collection problems.
How on earth did a man get hired at Burger King?
Screening & Training Prevents Robberies
Robbery deterrence starts during the employment screening process. Criminal background and reference checks tell prospective applicants that they better not lie on their employment application. If a restaurant is consistent with this policy the word will get out on the street and bad applicants won’t even bother to apply. This former Burger King employee, turned robber, should have been rejected during the pre-employment screening process.
During training, all new employees should be taught about restaurant robbery prevention procedures. These procedures send a message to employees that Burger King has robbery prevention procedures including cash control, an alarm system, and video recording equipment. This training should inform employees that excess cash is stored overnight in a time-lock or time-delay drop-safe that cannot be immediately opened by the restaurant manager or that daily cash deposits can only be retrieved in the presence of an armored car security guard. If these common fast-food security procedures were implemented and taught to all employees, the opportunity would be gone and this robbery / murder probably would not have occurred.
Good robbery deterrence procedures make it clear that large amounts of cash are not readily available to anyone, including the manager. This is accomplished by using a time-lock or time-delay feature on a safe so it can't open until 5am, for example, or requires a waiting period of say twenty-minutes before it can be opened after being activated with a special key. Studies show that most robbers won't wait around for twenty-minutes for a safe to unlock itself. This fact should be communicated to all employees and to the public by displaying highly visible decals on the entry doors openly drop large bills in front of customers into the cash drop safe.
It's possible that robbery prevention procedures were not implemented at this restaurant. It's also possible that security procedures were kept secret and the robber incorrectly perceived that a lot of cash would be available in the safe. The police reported to the media that $1,000 was taken during the robbery from the cash registers.
Was this Robbery Preventable?
A comprehensive robbery prevention program has existed for years in the fast-food industry. Compliance with basic robbery prevention procedures should have prevented this robbery and murder of the store manager. I will wait for the police investigation to be completed before rendering a final opinion.
Did this restaurant operate at high-risk by not having adequate security systems and procedures? There are unanswered questions whether the video system was operational or if the former employee still had key to the back door. Why was the manager scheduled to open the restaurant alone at 4am and why was $1,000 in cash available for the taking in the registers? Sometimes limited-hour franchise operations cut corners in low-sales restaurants to save payroll expenses. The fast-food industry adopted specialized security procedures long ago for opening and closing non-24-hour restaurants as standard operating procedure to prevent robberies.
I’m not going to second-guess what could or should have been done to prevent this crime until all the facts become know. Evidence about what security systems and procedures existed at this Burger King Restaurant will be presented during the criminal investigation and subsequent lawsuit that will undoubtedly be filed on behalf of the grieving family of the victim.