Work With the Police to Prevent Business Disturbances

In a previous column, I wrote of major business disturbances, such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. But there are also less catastrophic disturbances that can cost small business people time, money, and more. From shoplifting and vandalism to irate and/or intoxicated customers, these disturbances can be truly bad for business. Here’s what you can do to prevent them.

A Few Helpful Tips

Sgt. Jack Ryan is a 15-year Philadelphia police veteran who served as a detective in the Special Victims Unit for two years and served as an uncover narcotics officer for eight years before that. Ryan and other officers often make suggestions to business owners on protecting themselves. For example, business owners should train their employees on how to reduce opportunities for shoplifting. Here are a few other suggestions.

  • Install mirrors to eliminate blind spots in corners that might hide shoplifters.
  • Keep your merchandise away from exits to prevent shoplifters from doing a “grab-and-run.” Design your business set-up so that all customers must pass by your employees, be it a security guard or cashier. An electronic article surveillance system or some other kind of inventory control device is also recommended. The cash register should be inaccessible to customers, so that a thief can’t reach over and grab the cash. If you own a clothing store, your dressing rooms and rest rooms should also be locked when not in use.
  • Train your employees to follow each credit card company’s authorization procedures. They should be skeptical of a customer with only one credit card and one piece of identification. If you are suspicious of the customer, make a note of appearance, companions, any vehicle used, and what identification is used. The police investigating the crime will need this information.
  • Look for “ghost” numbers or letters. Many times, criminals will change the numbers and/or name on a stolen card. They either melt the original name and numbers off or file them off. Both actions leave faint imprints of the original characters. Check to see if the signature on the card compares favorably with the signature on the sales slip.
  • Fraudulent checks are often visibly phony, police say. By paying close attention to a check’s appearance, you can often detect a possible bad check before accepting it. Look for altered writing or erasures, water spots, or alterations of a check’s color and graphic background. Check to see if the signature matches the imprinted name and ID. Report suspicious behavior to the police immediately, even if you aren’t 100% sure it’s fraudulent.

Business people should reach out to their local police and ask them to assist in resolving reoccurring disturbances, as well as more serious crimes. The Philadelphia Police, like most police departments, helps small businesses reduce and prevent crime.

The police will work with small businesses to improve their security. Small businesses can join a Business Watch, and by working together, and with the police, they can alert each other to crime patterns and suspicious activities.

“Most people become crime victims because they don’t pay attention,” Sgt. Ryan says. “You have to pay attention.”

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