A Dollar General store was robbed 4 times in 3 months, and critics say it shows how discount chains put their staff at risk

Dollar General shooting in 2016
Critics say dollar stores have been hotbeds for crime in the US. Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
  • A Dollar General in Indianapolis was robbed four times in three months.
  • Critics say this is representative of a larger trend: that dollar stores are crime hotspots.
  • The lack of staff and the fact they carry cash makes these stores more vulnerable, they argue.

On September 9, a Dollar General store in Indianapolis was robbed for the fourth time in three months. According to a local news report, the armed suspect left the store with a bag of cash but no one was hurt.

When Insider contacted the Indianapolis police department, a spokesperson confirmed the incident and said that the frequency of robberies was “not unusual” or “particularly shocking” for a dollar store in the area.

A spokesperson for nonprofit Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana told Insider that smaller convenience stores and gas stations are also often targeted.

As dollar stores have flourished across the US, people campaigning against their rise have described them as crime hotspots that put local communities and employees at risk. Their ubiquity – there are more than 34,000 dollar stores in the US – and the fact they are often located in already high-crime areas are at least partly to blame. Critics say, however, that dollar stores are uniquely more vulnerable than competitors, such as Walmart.

These critics often point to the lack of staff in dollar stores.

Dollar stores have thrived in the US in the years since the Great Recession by offering rock-bottom prices, made possible by keeping overheads, such as labor, down. Critics say the company’s efforts to keep costs low has resulted in understaffing. Some stores can be operated by one or two employees at a time.

It’s therefore easier to break in and overwhelm staff, Kennedy Smith, senior researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), a nonprofit that advocates for community businesses, said in a recent phone conversation with Insider. She described these stores as “crime magnets.”

But it’s hard to determine whether they definitively attract more crime than other types of stores. According to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that catalogs incidents of gun crime in the US from local law enforcement and news sites, there have been more than 420 incidents involving guns at dollar stores across the US since the start of 2017.

By comparison, the GVA cataloged more than 700 incidents involving guns at the over 4,700 Walmart stores around the US since 2017. The data includes any incident with a gun that takes place in or around these stores, including Walmart’s giant parking lots.

There is no comprehensive source that tracks exactly how many robberies take place inside stores, so it’s not possible to directly compare the data.

However, Smith said her perception is that it’s easier for someone to rob a dollar store than to rob a Walmart, which has more staff and, often, security guards that dollar stores rarely have, she said.

In a statement to Insider, a spokesperson for Dollar General said that the company has a series of safety and security protocols to protect workers and shoppers, without specifying what. The company also works closely with law enforcement in local areas, they said.

“We do not publicly comment on specifics of these [safety] measures because doing so potentially compromises the integrity of those measures and may place customers and employees at risk by providing a roadmap to could-be wrongdoers,” the spokesperson said.

When Insider spoke to store manager Christy Laurence, who runs the Dollar General store on the east side of Indianapolis that was robbed four times over the summer, she said that the company was understanding of the situation, and that workers were offered a day off and counseling if they were in the store during a robbery.

Dollar General would not confirm this when contacted by Insider.

Daniel Rosenberg, director and coordinator of nonprofit Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana, said that people also choose to rob these stores over, for example, a Walmart because dollar stores generally carry cash. Given that most items cost under $US10 ($AU13), shoppers tend not to buy on card. The same is true for convenience stores and gas stations, he said.

Plus, dollar stores often have blocked-out windows, which makes it harder for workers to see who’s coming in, and easier for would-be robbers to stay hidden from passersby on the street.

Ed Delaney, a state representative for Indiana, who has campaigned for years to make local lawmakers investigate the safety of working at dollar stores, said there’s still no organized effort to help these workers because these stores aren’t unionized and the “system doesn’t pay much attention.”

This might soon change – a handful of workers at a Dollar General store Barkhamsted, Connecticut, are currently pushing to unionize their store, which could pave the way for other locations to follow.

But Laurence, the Dollar General store manager, isn’t convinced that it would be any better elsewhere. “It’s no different from any other job,” she said. “It’s just business that I am in.”

If you are a dollar store worker with a story to share please contact this reporter at [email protected] or via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (646) 768-4716.