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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Late-night workers face risks

Working alone late at night can be dangerous, but steps can be taken to reduce the risk.

“If your business closes at 2 a.m. and you’re going to end up with one employee, try to work it out so there are two people,” said Travis Pendell, a Spokane County Sheriff’s Office crime prevention deputy. That can protect the employees and the business.

A bartender who was allegedly kidnapped and raped on Aug. 13 was closing alone, police say.

“The policy is to have at least two people at the Corner Club Tavern at the close of business. That has always been the policy,” said Kelly Collins, the tavern manager. “The fact she was alone was a fluke.”

The 25-year-old woman was also at a disadvantage because she didn’t know who the regulars were at the tavern on Park Road and Trent Avenue. The man accused of kidnapping and raping her had an Alaska driver’s license and was a guest at a nearby motel.

According to the woman’s statement, a man identified as Gary Wayne Austin Jr., 26, stayed inside the Corner Club until after the 2 a.m. closing time. He then overpowered and raped her, later forcing her into his car, where they headed east on Interstate 90 before turning around in Montana.

Deputies were at the tavern when the two returned, according to the victim’s statement. The man fled on foot.

Deputies found Austin at the motel, just a few doors down from the Corner Club. Austin remained at Spokane County Jail Friday on a $250,000 bond, officials said. He is charged with two counts of first-degree rape and one count each of first-degree kidnapping, second-degree robbery and assault.

Collins said the business will not only make sure two employees are there at closing time, but the business is also stepping up security in other ways.

“We are probably going to add cameras to the outside of the building,” Collins said, adding that they are also going to set up a Web camera operation so the owners can check on the bar by logging onto the Internet.

Business owners can take a variety of precautions depending on how much security they want. Many already do.

Vary hours that employees take money to the bank, and vary routes to guard against robberies, Deputy Pendell said. Don’t make it easy for a regular customer to figure out the typical pattern. Trim the landscaping so bushes don’t hide the business. A well-lighted area is more likely to make criminals feel exposed.

“We have one female that closes, and a male always stays with her,” but the standard policy is to always have two people closing, said Terry Best, owner of O’Doherty’s Irish Pub & BBQ Cater Co. “If it so happens that I close by myself, I have my friend, .357, with me.

“We also have a certain lock-down system, which we change all the time,” Best said. “We change the way we leave the building, and the parking area is well lit.”

Hiring an armored car service to come pick up a business’ bank deposit or a private security company are other options, Pendell said.

“Safety is a concern for us every day,” said Jim Redmon, owner of Divine’s, which has 11 convenience stores throughout the area. “What we try to do is have men working late at night and have the area well lit. We also have video monitors and a panic alarm.”

“For personal security, a personal audible alarm that puts out an ear-splitting shriek is a good item to have,” Pendell said. “It draws attention. Keep in mind that other forms of self-defense can be used against you, such as pepper spray, or even a Taser.”

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