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Jim Merrow, owner of Merrow Wholesale Auto listens during the small business safety seminar at the Manchester Police Department on Thursday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

Robbery just before Manchester police seminar for small business hammers home safety recommendations

MANCHESTER — Take the advertising out of windows. Keep the cash in registers to a minimum. Greet every customer. And never, ever try to confront a robber by pulling out a weapon.

About 30 convenience store owners and employees were given these tips, and more, as part of a seminar hosted by the Manchester Police Department Wednesday night that aimed to help convenience stores lessen the chances of being robbed.

Community Policing Officer Paul Rondeau said most robbers are hoping to end the robbery quickly and get some cash or something they can easily sell to purchase drugs.

"They're typically conducting the robbery to feed some kind of chemical dependency," he said. "You and the robber have something in common. You both want the ordeal to be over with as quickly as possible."

Rondeau told the store owners and employees that one of the biggest mistakes they can make is to pull out a gun or other weapon. He said that doing so turns a quick robbery into a life or death situation for the robber, who is likely already nervous and agitated.

"Is that pack of cigarettes, is that six-pack of beer, is that $30 really worth somebody losing their life over? What's most important is that you get home safe," he said.

Rondeau said convenience stores can also take several steps to deter would-be robbers from considering their stores. They include wide aisles with low shelves for better visibility, surveillance cameras, greeting every customer so a would-be robber knows that their face has been seen, time-lock safes and bright lights. But, he said, the "most important" thing convenience stores can do is clear windows of advertising that blocks the interior view from the street.

Detective Sgt. Joseph Mucci said Crosstown Variety on Bremer Street was robbed shortly after 6 p.m. Wednesday, about an hour before the seminar, and the robber was caught coming out of the store because someone passing by the store saw the robbery happening and called 911.

Police charged Nicholas Meuse, 27, of Manchester, with one count of robbery in connection to the incident.

"All those signs that are in your windows are a detriment to you and to us in sometimes stopping robberies," Mucci said.

Rabi Thapal, owner of the S&R Westside Market on Kelley Street, said he found the seminar informative.

"It will be helpful to protect ourselves and our employees," he said.

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