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Store Owner, 96, Stands Up to Would-Be Robber

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on July 17, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A 96-year-old store owner thwarted an attempted robbery with nerves of steel and a fist of sass. But police say that's not the safest way to handle such a situation.

"I said I'm not opening up that cash register and that's it, I'm not opening it," Margaretta Wolf, owner of Wolf's Grocery Store in Marshfield, Wisconsin, told WAOW-TV. "I said you can have all the Tootsie Rolls you want but I am not opening that cash register."

Wolf may have howled the knife-wielding robber out of the store, but police caution against adopting her approach. If you're a mom-and-pop store owner, here are some law-enforcement tips about what to do when confronted by a robber:

During the Robbery

  • Remain calm. Don't argue, fight, surprise or attempt to use weapons against the robber. Also, don't volunteer any assistance -- just cooperate, the Portland, Oregon, Police Bureau suggests.
  • Activate silent alarms or other security devices, but only if you can do it discreetly.
  • Watch the robber's hands and try to remember where the fingerprints are.
  • Give the robber some "bait money" -- cash that's set aside specifically to give to robbers. If you keep a list of the serial numbers on those bills, police may be able to track them. (If you're making photocopies, you should reduce or enlarge the images so you don't run afoul of the law, suggests.)
  • Observe the robber's physical characteristics. Make a special mental note of any scars or tattoos.
  • Notice the type of weapon so you can give police an accurate description.
  • Watch where the robber goes as he's leaving the scene.

After the Robbery

  • Call the police immediately.
  • Lock all doors and allow no one into your store, so the crime scene isn't disturbed.
  • Ask witnesses to stay in the store until police arrive.
  • Don't touch anything the robber may have touched.
  • Don't discuss what happened with any other witness. This keeps witness observations untainted.
  • Gather your thoughts and write a description of the incident while waiting for police to arrive, or record your first impressions of the incident if you're too shaken up to write about it immediately.

These robbery response strategies require planning and coordination between employees and management, the Portland Police Bureau reminds us.

That's why you'll want to set aside some time to think about how you might react in a robbery situation and discuss your concerns with your employees. A thoughtful emergency plan can reduce the amount of money stolen and minimize the chance for injury and loss of life.

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