Compared to a lot of places, Maryville is a relatively uneventful place when it comes to violent crime.
But just because armed robberies aren't common here doesn't mean they can't — or don't — happen.
That fact was underscored March 10 when a gun-toting robber, his face swathed in bandanas, entered the North Main Street Dollar General Store, threatened a clerk and made away with an undisclosed amount of cash.
In the event, police were able to track the suspect down and make an arrest after only a few days. But the robbery caused a few jitters within the local retail community, prompting the Greater Maryville Chamber of Commerce to ask local law enforcement what businesses can do to protect themselves.
In its most recent newsletter, the Chamber offers a few tips from Maryville Public Safety Detective Ryan Glidden about how retailers can protect their premises and help police put robbers behind bars.
Perhaps the most effective strategy, Glidden said, is investing in a good security camera system capable of both providing a deterrent giving officers a powerful investigative tool.
Thanks to rapidly evolving technology, such systems are more affordable than ever. But like all machines, Glidden said, their effectiveness depends on the people who install and run them.
In the case of the Dollar Store robbery, the security camera date and time stamp was off by several days. That can cause confusion, Glidden said, especially if police need to access images rapidly in the immediate aftermath of a crime.
Also, business owners should ensure that an employee trained in accessing images from security cameras is always available, since the technology, including player software needed to view video and download images, varies significantly from system to system.
Assume that police won't know how to access images from your system, and train staff accordingly, said Glidden, who added that being able to download and disseminate video files quickly can save precious time in the crucial opening phase of an investigation.
Walmart, Hy-Vee and Walgreens have three of the more sophisticated electronic surveillance systems in town, Glidden said, but each is "completely different" and requires special training.
Add the hodgepodge of technology used by other local stores into the mix, and one begins to see the need for businesses to develop their own in-house expertise.
In addition to training, Glidden said, business owners need to do some research and make sure they acquire a quality system in the first place. Cheap cameras and cheap software may save money up front, and just having a camera mounted on the wall can act as a deterrent. But bottom-dollar technology serves little purpose after a robbery occurs.
"It doesn't do any good to purchase a system if the quality is so poor you can't use it," Glidden said.
Page 2 of 2 - In addition, higher quality images are more apt to register a hit when fed into a facial recognition database of the sort familiar to viewers of "NCIS" and other TV police procedurals.
Maryville officers have free access to this kind of technology through the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Finally, Glidden said, even the best surveillance system isn't worth much if it is improperly installed. Many stores, he said, mount cameras high up on the wall rather than at eye level.
Placing cameras on or near the ceiling, Glidden said, can distort the image and, again, decrease the effectiveness of facial recognition searches.
Of course, cameras only record crime, they don't stop it. And Glidden said if an armed robber enters a store the best thing for both employees and customers to do is whatever the assailant asks them to.
"You should comply," he said. "No amount of money in a drawer or merchandise on a shelf is worth losing your life for."