ANDERSON — An employee at a local convenience store has been robbed three times in five months, and her family is concerned the company is not doing enough to ensure her safety.
The woman, who works third shift at the Ricker's convenience store and gas station on North Madison Avenue, declined to comment on the story for employment reasons, but her father, John Cook, and husband, Jaymar Dickerson, both said Ricker's hasn't done enough to improve safety since the incidents.
A Ricker's spokesperson said the company is being proactive in keeping employees safe.
The most recent incident happened Monday at 10:52 p.m., when a man entered the store, physically cornered the woman with a knife and stole cash from the register. Two prior robberies happened in the early morning hours of Nov. 5 and Sept. 17. According to Detective Joel Sandefur of the Anderson Police Department, the Nov. 5 robbery involved a white man with a knife and the Sept. 17 incident involved a black man with a pistol. Each time, the woman was working alone.
Sandefur said police recently arrested DeAundra Patterson, a suspect believed to be responsible for several robberies across the city. It's possible Patterson was responsible for the September robbery, but Sandefur said that hasn't been confirmed.
In the wake of several summer convenience store robberies, Ricker's hired extra security and APD started dedicating extra patrols to gas stations around the city, Sandefur said. He said Ricker's stores have solid security comparable to other convenience stores throughout the state.
"It's a bit of anomaly to have the same person robbed three time," Sandefur said.
Dickerson said there have technically been four incidents involving his wife, the earliest dating back to Feb. 2, 2013, when Jay Crouse, 27, of Anderson robbed a Village Pantry on Cross Street, fled and attempted to rob the Ricker's on Madison shortly after. Police arrested him, and he is currently serving a 10-year sentence. Dickerson said no weapon was involved in that incident, but the effects of each attack have been cumulative on his wife, and each robbery seems to be an escalation.
"They're all different people, but they're getting more and more violent," Dickerson said. "Mentally, she is a wreck. She has nightmares and flashbacks all the time, and she can't really quit this job because we're financially strapped."
Cook and Dickerson said they've had conversations with Ricker's management representatives and suggested installing bulletproof glass around the registers, a panic button and increasing and enhancing video camera coverage in the store. They were told by Ricker's representatives that the company is working on installing special doors that will allow third-shift employees to buzz in customers at the door. Cook said he appreciates the efforts, but it's not enough.
"I've talked to them about having layers of security. You don't know what a criminal looks like just because you can see him at the door," Cook said.
Dickerson said the company has been reactive and not proactive in keeping its employees safe. He referenced an incident on Sept. 25, when an Indianapolis Ricker's was robbed at gunpoint and 39-year-old third-shift cashier Elvalide Ndiaye was shot and killed. Dickerson said that after that shooting, the company installed panic buttons at some Indianapolis stores, but not Anderson stores.
"They just buried an employee in Indianapolis," Dickerson said. "If that’s not enough to do what they need to fix these stores, what is?"
Gabby VanAlstine, assistant director of human resources for Ricker's, said she couldn't confirm whether that claim was true, and that she can't discuss current plans for store safety improvements, but said measures are being taken to improve all their stores, including the one on Madison.
"I can assure you that the safety of our employees is of utmost importance. We take it very seriously, and we're taking steps to make the store more safe," VanAlstine said. "And we don't know why this keeps happening at that one store. We're trying to find out why just like everyone else and we're working to fix it."
VanAlstine said the company is considering every option to enhance the safety of their stores, including contracting even more security. She said typically stores with a third shift are thinly staffed because of low foot traffic, and sometimes stores with little night business are even kept closed during third-shift hours. She said closing the Madison store during those hours has even been suggested.
However, regardless of what changes at the store, VanAlstine promised that the woman would continue to have a job at Ricker's and receive any help she needed. She said the company offers therapy for employees who have experienced robberies and has offered to change the woman's shift and store.
"I can't talk too much about personnel issues, but rest assured, we're going to do what's right by (the employee) and do whatever we can to be there for her," VanAlstine said.
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Ricker's locations in Anderson 114 West Eighth St. 2500 Broadway 5408 Pendleton Ave. 2 North Madison Ave. 2508 Central Ave. 920 West 38th St. 3304 Nichol Ave. 100 Federal Drive, Chesterfield