On Crime & Security
There is safety in numbers, goes the old saying. As every law enforcement and security professional will tell you, you have a better chance of not becoming a crime victim if you are in a group.
Certainly this idea works if you are walking down a street in a group, but what about the small & home business entrepreneur? For those of you who work at home or in small business establishments, there is the "Business Watch."
Like a Town Watch brings together residents in a common cause to prevent crime by being alert and communicating with each other and the police, a Business Watch brings together business people with the same goal - preventing crime committed against the small & home business community.
Even people who operate their businesses from the privacy of their own home can join a Business Watch. Parents of home-schooled children network with other like-minded parents and they pool resources, organize outings and keep each other informed of common concerns. Home business entrepreneurs can likewise network with others by way of e-mail, regular meetings and newsletters.
The key to a Business Watch, in my view, is a close relationship with your local police department. Most departments have a crime prevention officer and he or she will assist you in meeting members of an existing Business Watch in your area, or help you organize one.
I've worked with crime prevention officers from several police department and they have all been outgoing, helpful and deeply concerned about crime. That's why they were selected to be crime prevention officers. They are good communicators who know about crime in their areas.
The crime prevention officer can provide information and updates on crimes committed against business people in your area and elsewhere. The crime prevention officer would also be interested in any suspicious activity you may encounter. A Business Watch, like a Town Watch, can become the "eyes & ears" of the police in the small business & home business community. You can inform the police, as well as other members of your Business Watch, about that shifty-looking door-to-door handy man or that suspicious business offer you received via e-mail.
The police can warn the Business Watch about a local scam involving a person fundraising for a nonexistence charity or a salesman touting a phony promotion campaign. They can also warn you of an e-mail or telephone scam offering business supplies at a discount or a person passing bad checks or using stolen credit cards. The police can warn you of a violent armed robber making the rounds in your area.
The police can also suggest security measures to prevent specific criminal threats and crime in general. Communications between the police and the business community is vital.
Like a sticker on a home that warns a thief that the home-owner has a burglar alarm system, a Business Watch sticker warns a thief that the small business owner is knowledgeable of the ways of the criminal and is alert to scams and thieving methods. As a burglar moves to the next home without an alarm system sticker, the criminal moves to a business that does not display a Business Watch sticker. The Business Watch should have high visibility with abundant signs and stickers.
If I have learned anything during my many years of dealing with criminals, it is that they are cowardly and lazy. They generally chose the path of least resistance.
By joining a Business Watch, you can learn about criminal behavior by attending the training sessions offered by your local crime prevention officer. He or she will train you and your employees on how to identify and report suspicious behavior. You'll learn how white-collar and street criminals can rob or injury you, and what you can do to prevent that from occurring.
The Business Watch usually has an e-mail or fax network where the police and other members send alerts and other crime prevention information out to all members. You can stay informed and use that knowledge to remain safe and prosperous.
Contact your local police department or Better Business Bureau to learn about established Business Watch groups in your area. If there are none, ask for help in forming one. If you are involved in a Business Watch and would like to pass on your experiences, please e-mail me and I'll share your stories with the other readers.