The Opioid Crisis Hits the C-Store Channel

Heroin

CHICAGO -- A convenience-store owner in Sheboygan, Wis., has been a vocal advocate for solutions to the city’s opioid epidemic. Dick Hiers, owner of the Northeast Standard BP store has organized meetings with law enforcement and posted signs about the dangers of heroin and other drugs.

Sheboygan is one of the Wisconsin counties that has been hit hardest by the opioid crisis, which President Trump this summer called a "national emergency" and promised to address. In 2015, 18 out of every 100,000 people died from drug overdoses, according to the National Center for Health Statistics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, when four of Hiers’ star workers were arrested and charged with manufacturing, selling or distributing drugs, the c-store owner felt blindsided. “They hide it very, very well,” he said.

Retailers do have some tools at their disposal to prevent this unpleasant surprise, according to Tim Dimoff, CEO and president of SACS Consulting and Investigative Services Inc. in Akron, Ohio. Here are warning signs and action plans from the security expert and former police officer ...

1. Start with the hiring process

Job interview

A smart and thorough hiring process can give retailers a better idea of who they’re hiring, Dimoff said. He recommends running a detailed background check on criminal and civil pasts. “It will tell you two things: if they have a past drug abuse situation, and if they have a hard time handling money, which could lead them to theft or drug dealing,” he said.

The right interview question can also save convenience stores from being burned down the road. Try asking potential hires how they would handle someone who comes into the facility who wants to sell guests drugs, and watch their reaction, he said. “You’d be surprised how much information they will tell you if you just ask,” he said.

2. Create drug policies

Drugs

Strict drug policies can signal to staff a zero tolerance for any drug-related business, Dimoff said. Mentioning drug testing in job listings and interviews will reduce the amount of people who bother to apply, he said. “That will save you time, money and aggravation,” he said.

3. Document everything

Signing a document

Cameras can help c-store owners spot the warning signs of an employee who is involved with the sale of illegal substances, Dimoff said. Retailers also can hire a consultant to do periodic observation of employees’ behaviors.

Look out for short-term traffic of cars and people, he said. “If you’re seeing a guy with a cup of coffee and he interacts with six cars in a half an hour, that could be a signal that an employee is dealing on the premises,” he said. Dimoff said clear windows without signage and good lighting can also act as a deterrent.