I’ve contacted several police departments across the country and asked them about the benefits of joining a local Business Watch.
Officer Angie Echtenkamp coordinates the Business Watch program for the Omaha, Nebraska Police Department. She told me that their Business Watch program is designed to provide information that will help maintain a safe work environment for the business owner and his or her employees.
“Business safety and crime prevention should be every business owner’s and employee’s concern no matter how small or large the business is,” Echtenkamp explained. “A main component of the Business Watch program is developing a communication network for which businesses can share and update each other on issues effecting the safety and well being of their business.”
Echtenkamp said that the Omaha Police Department began the Business Watch program as an effort to build relationships with the business community while also sharing important crime prevention information. Echtenkamp also noted that the Business Watch program also utilizes a partnership between the media and the Omaha Police Department to deter crime with effective crime prevention strategies and tools.
“The Business Watch program is run much like the Neighborhood Watch program, in the sense that every group has a “captain” or contact person,” Echtenkamp said. “The contact person is responsible for organizing meetings, sharing and updating a contact calling tree while also sharing any information that happens in their watch area.”
Echtenkamp said the Business Watch Office is the main point of contact between the businesses and the police department. She added that the Business Watch Office sends out monthly newsletters that shares crime prevention information, as well as e-mail alerts to all members of the Business Watch program. Meetings are held when members request one. The Business Watch Officer will often speak on a crime prevention topic at the meetings, which are held monthly, quarterly and bi-annually, depending on the needs of the Business Watch.
“We think our robbery prevention training is extremely beneficial to employees of both small and larger businesses.” Echtenkamp said. “Several times a year the Omaha Police Department’s Business Watch Office hosts a robbery prevention seminar targeting retail businesses.”
The robbery prevention information focuses on items such as signage blocking windows to cash handling practices within the business. Echtenkamp said they have found that by making even small adjustments to the store and properly training employees, owners will find there is a reduction of crime.
Echtenkamp believes that burglaries can be prevented by taking several precautions around the business, such as performing frequent checks to ensure proper lighting is surrounding the store as well as testing all door locks to ensure they are in good working condition. Also, Echtenkamp suggests that business people make sure store safes are bolted to the floor or anchored down to make it more difficult to remove by thieves. Leaving cash registers open and empty will allow anyone to see there is not any cash kept in them and this will also keep them from being broken by a thieve in the event of a burglary.
“We feel one of the huge accomplishments of the Business Watch program is the number of people we have reached out to in our different seminar training sessions,” Echtenkamp said. “We always feel a training seminar is a success if each attendee leaves with even one suggestion that they implement at their business that helps to make them and their employees safer.”
Echtenkamp said that they’ve learned that a Business Watch is only as successful as the communication and cooperation of the businesses involved. If businesses are not willing to partner with each other and communicate their needs to the police department, then the business watch is not likely to succeed.
Echtenkamp said that starting a Business Watch program can be difficult in the beginning, but advises that one should not quit. A Business Watch will work even if you only have a handful of people initially involved.
“Business Watch is a great program and can be extremely beneficial to the community and the police in the fight against crime,” Echtenkamp said. “In my experience our Business Watch Unit has helped to build many beneficial relationships between the community and the Police Department.”
If you have an active Business Watch in your area, I suggest you join it. If you don’t have an active Business Watch in your area, you should contact your police department and ask them to help you and your fellow business people organized one.