You are here

Keeping Your Drycleaning Company Safe from Violence (Part 1)

Paying attention to people, surroundings can make a huge difference

CHICAGO — No dry cleaner wants to consider that their workplace could be the scene of violence — either from one-on-one confrontations or something much worse — but the simple act of denying that it could happen can set the stage for tragedy down the road.

This was the message of Carol Dodgen, owner of Dodgen Security Consulting, during her recent webinar “Staying Safe in a Violent world.” Since 1998, Dodgen’s company has provided services including training, lighting inspections, and security assessments for business and government entities. 

During her webinar, sponsored by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Dodgen highlighted signs business owners should look that might indicate vulnerabilities that could lead to violence on their company grounds.

“This is kind of a good news/bad news scenario,” Dodgen says. “There are so many challenges that we face, and as far as the bad news goes, we're not going to stop crime. We're not going to be able to legislate or cause people to obey the laws that we have in place. We can't legislate people's hearts and actions. What we can do are things that will make ourselves safer.”

The Ingredients for Crime

“Over the 26 years of owning my company, I've researched hundreds if not thousands of cases of violence, and I’ve been fortunate enough to sit down with individuals who have been involved in cases of violence,” Dodgen says. “I've spoken to people who have been shot, stabbed, kidnapped, hijacked and all types of situations. My goal has been to try to learn from what they have been through. A lot of times, there are things that were missed. There are things that, when they look back, they say they should have paid attention to them. Sometimes, I'm learning how they survived it. What did it take to survive what they went through?

Dodgen says there are three ingredients to a crime:

  • The desire or motivation to commit the crime
  • The skills and tools needed to commit the crime
  • The opportunity to commit the crime

The first two ingredients are out of a business owner’s control, she says, but the third “is the one thing that we have some control over.”

Dodgen offered a statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stating that in the U.S., more than seven people per hour die a violent death, and more than 19,100 people were victims of homicide and 47,500 died by suicide in 2019.

“I know that this has gone up,” she says, “because we've seen increases in suicide and homicide over the last couple of years.” 

In 2021, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reported that the homicide rate in the U.S. rose 30% between 2019 and 2020. “It is the largest increase in 100 years,” reported Robert Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at the NCHS, in the announcement.

Suicidal Dangers

Dodgen pointed out that the suicide numbers can also impact violent deaths for others, as well. She cited an incident that happened on a FedEx flight in 1994. During that incident, Auburn R. Calloway, a suicidal FedEx employee, attempted to kill the flight crew and hijack and crash the flight. “He thought he was going to be fired the next day,” she says, “because it had been discovered that he was falsifying records.”

The flight crew successfully fought him off and landed the plane, but if successful, Calloway’s actions would have killed himself, the three-person flight crew, and potentially many others if the plane had crashed in a populated area.

“He had planned this for months,” Dodgen says. “His planning was in place, and he knew he was going to die. And if he knew he was going to die, he didn't care how many other people went out as well. So, that's the short lesson: If someone is suicidal, then they absolutely can be a danger to others. We can't assume just because someone wants to take their own life, that they're not a danger to others.”

Come back Thursday for Part 2 of this series, where we'll explore warning signs that could indicate violence on the horizon — and what to do if you see those signs.

Keeping Your Company Safe from Violence

(Image licensed by Ingram Image)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].