Carryout owners have the right to defend themselves with guns and baseball bats, if necessary, Toledo police Chief Michael Navarre said yesterday.
The chief, speaking at a City Council hearing to a roomful of carryout owners, stressed that nonresistance is the best response to an armed robber.
But pressed by business owners to explain their rights to use deadly force, he said it is the same for them as it is for anyone. “If you re looking at a weapon, you have the right to defend yourself,” Chief Navarre said. “It has to be related to the amount of harm you re facing.”
Councilman Wilma Brown, who called the hearing of the public safety committee in the wake of a rash of carryout robberies, said the city is setting up a fund of $50,000 to help store owners who can t afford to acquire surveillance and security equipment. About 20 people attended the hearing.
“When it gets violent, how do you respond?” asked Roderick Colbert, who with his wife, Yvonne, owns Convenience 4-U Carryout at Detroit and Palmwood avenues. Mr. Colbert said he has not been robbed in the three years he has owned the store, but has become worried by recent robberies and shootings. “I want to have a clear understanding, it s been so violent,” Mr. Colbert said.
Chief Navarre refused to give detailed guidelines. He said Ohio law allows a person who has a weapon to defend himself or others against somebody else with a weapon.
“Every situation is different, and none us are lawyers up here. I m not going to sit up here and tell someone that if somebody makes mention of a gun, that you have a right to shoot them,” the chief said.
Asked what they should do if bullets are flying, the chief said, “Take immediate cover - get away from the bullets.”
He added: “Pick up a baseball bat if that s your only defense against bullets coming toward you.”
He said the best response to an armed robber is to comply fully and quickly, and to avoid making sudden movements.
Some speakers questioned whether carryout robberies are treated as a high priority.
“They don t give us priority like the banks,” said Ismail Shbat, general manager of World of Coffee, 5350 Airport Hwy. “The groceries are not a priority - that s my personal opinion. I was a grocer for 11 years. I left that line of work because of the danger.”
Chief Navarre insisted “robbery in progress” alarms from carryouts and grocery stores get the same high priority as robbery alarms from banks. He said police usually respond to a call of a robbery in progress within about two minutes.
The chief urged training and background checks for employees, and advised owners to install cameras and to mount them at eye level instead of from the ceiling.
He distributed a list of preventive tips, including:
Note a robber s appearance beyond clothing that can be easily discarded.
Keep store windows clear so police driving by can see in.
Move money to the safe or the bank frequently and at irregular times.
Note the direction of the robber s departure and details of the getaway car without compromising safety.
Greet customers individually. Such recognition might rattle a would-be robber.
Don t be afraid to call police to report suspicious activity.