ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Business armed robberies are a huge topic in South Georgia, with some cities averaging more than two each month.
Jacqueline Pyles works at the BP gas station and convenience store in Albany.
"Seems like a good area, or else I've just been lucky," said Pyles, a mother of two.
She started the job in November of 2016. Just one month before that, however, two suspects robbed the store at gunpoint, shooting and injuring a clerk.
"They went around and robbed several convenience stores and they were doing it in a violent manner," said Albany Police Chief Michael Persley.
Pyles' family is not a big fan of her job.
"My dad and my stepmom, they're worried about me working here specifically because this place has been targeted before," said Pyles.
Several police departments are actively fighting against this crime, which is not always violent but can easily turn fatal.
What to do if an armed robbery happens
Comply, comply, comply.
Police say if you're in an armed robbery and you can escape the situation safely, then do that.
However, if you can't escape, do what the robbers ask, or the situation could become violent.
"If somebody comes in and puts a gun to your face, just cooperate," said APD Sgt. Richard Norman. "No amount of money is worth your life. Give the perp your money."
"We've had cases in the past where people have fought back and have been injured or have been killed because of this," said Chief Persley.
Comply with what they want of you, and once the robbers have left the business, then call 911 immediately.
Pyles said though she's never felt in danger, if the situation did arise, she would do what the suspects ask, which is exactly what police advise to keep yourself and anyone else safe.
"Basically, whatever it takes for me to get home to my family at night," she said.
How to be a good witness
If you're in a store when an armed robbery happens, police say they need you to be the best witness you can be to help them solve the crime.
"We don't want anybody to die. We don't," Chief Persley said. "We would much rather people give us information, we catch the person, and then they're held accountable in a court of law for that."
Being a good witness includes making as many observations about the robber and your surroundings as the crime is being committed.
Sgt. Norman said they recommend people write down as many things as they can remember immediately after the crime, so police can use those tips to catch the suspects.
"There are certain features that we focus on: shoes, their clothing," he said. "We do use those small pieces of information and solve the cases based on that."
"They just don't know that what they did see," said Cordele Police Chief Rob Rodriguez. "The little bitty part that they did see is major to the successful resolution of the case."
Armed robberies in 2016
Police Chief Michael Persley said Albany had 33 business armed robberies in 2016. Two cases, including the BP incident, turned violent.
Only eight of the incidents ended in arrests.
"If the opportunity presents itself, the perp is going to take that opportunity," said Sgt. Norman.
Cordele Police Chief Rob Rodriguez said Cordele had 24 armed robberies in 2016, the same number the city had in 2015.
What are police doing?
Both police departments said they have efforts in place to try and stop these crimes.
"Our officers are engaging the business owners on a frequent and one-on-one basis," said Chief Rodriguez.
In Cordele, officers recommend certain actions for businesses. They say finance companies, that seemed to be targeted at one point in 2016, should have systems where employees can "buzz" people in the store.
The Albany Police Department promotes a campaign where businesses leave their cash registers "Open and Empty" overnight, to deter possible suspects.
Officers also do surveys to offer advice directly to business owners.
"They will give some suggestions and recommendations of how businesses can better protect themselves to being victims of crimes," said Chief Persley.
"One of the things that I would say is don't have one clerk in the store," said Sgt. Norman. "Double up, triple up clerks. The more people that are there is going to be a deterrent."
That business survey helped the BP. Now, they've got more than 32 cameras across the store and outside to help keep employees safe.
"We have cameras everywhere so there's a lot more security now than there was before," said Pyles.
The store also has a magnetic lock employees can activate after a certain time at night, where they control who can come in and out of the business
The Albany Police Department also offers a free service for businesses to keep employees and employers safe. If you're taking a large amount of money to the bank, you can call dispatch at (229) 431-2132, and an officer will escort you to help keep you safe.