Business Watch gains popularity
In neighborhoods across the country, neighbors have seen great success in curbing crime with the Neighborhood Watch Program. Now the Lee County Sheriff’s office is helping businesses start a similar program called Business Watch.
“The Business Watch Program is like a Neighborhood Watch,” said Trisha Bissler, Crime Prevention Specialist for Sheriff’s Department. “One of the biggest parts of Business Watch is watching out for your property and the neighboring businesses.”
With the economy being in a slump, she said, there is more and more crime. “If we can develop business watches we have that many more people that are extra eyes and ears for the Sheriff’s Department.”
“Now more than ever with the economy and the condition it is in, we are fiercely committed to the business community,” added Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott. “These types of outreach efforts are healthy for the community and the Sheriff’s offices to keep us engaged with business leaders in the area.”
Bissler said that in North Fort Myers, the police are just staring to build the program, make it grow and get more businesses involved. “If you want to get a business watch program started, talk to the businesses around you, whether it is a strip mall or block, see if the other owners and managers are interested and then call me and we can set up an appointment to get started.”
She said she would come out for a meeting with a group, give them information on Business Watch and answer any questions. “Starting a Business Watch is beneficial for the businesses involved and the Sheriff’s Department. In the time we have been growing this program, we’ve seen several businesses report to be very successful with their program.”
It is a program that stresses communication, concern and connection to the community, she noted. Any type of business can take part, and Watch Groups are not vigilantes.
The essential components of the program include members learning how to make their businesses more secure, watching out for each other and the community and reporting activities that raise their suspicions to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
Formation of a Business Watch Program can be around any geographical unit — a block, office complex, shopping center, industrial park or any other commercial area.
Watch members are asked to be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary or suspicious. They are not asked to investigate these problems on their own, but to report these incidents to the Sheriff’s Office and alert neighboring businesses.
To get started, Bissler suggests forming a small planning committee and deciding on a date and place for an initial Business Watch meeting, which she or another Lee County Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention Specialist would attend.
Other steps would include selecting a Business Watch coordinator and block captains who are responsible for organizing meetings and relaying information to members. Members would also place signs in the community identifying the area as part of Business Watch.
There would also be the set up a fax-network to alert surrounding businesses of problems and suspicious people/vehicles. There can also be alerts for bad checks, fraudulent returns, robberies, purse snatching and other crimes.
There’s also a public awareness component available. Periodic meetings of the Business Watch Program could be used to share information and develop a heightened business awareness of and proper response to suspected or actual criminal activity. Speakers from Lee County Sheriff’s Office, as well as other community agencies, can address a variety of topics from recognizing suspicious activity and learning how to report it, to loss prevention, check and credit card fraud to liability.
To set up a meeting or for more information call Bissler at 477-1801.