Crime Prevention through Awareness and Education

It CAN happen here

Although Mount Ephraim’s crime rate is well below the national average (41. 18 index crimes/ 1000 residents nationally in 2005), crime does occur here. One of the best ways to help prevent it from occurring is through awareness and education. By being aware of the weak points of your current crime prevention plan you can work to eliminate them. When you recognize the strengths of your plan, you are able to make sure they remain implemented and followed by all employees.

Think like a crook

Criminals are not going to play fair if they want to victimize you. Nothing says that you have to be completely up front and honest about your crime prevention techniques for them either. While your response must fall within the legal guidelines, deception is not forbidden. If you are unable to afford expensive cameras or security systems, you can probably afford a security system sticker for your window or a fake camera in your parking lot.
Consider asking anyone you catch victimizing your business why they felt it was a good target. Chances are they will be more than willing to brag about how smart they thought they were and how easily they avoided detection previously. This can point out weaknesses you were not aware of and allow you to fix it before you are victimized again. At the very least, contact the Police Department and ask them to have an Officer review your property and secuirty measures. They can sometimes point out security risks, flaws and immediate issues that may not be so glaring to the untrained eye.

Ask Your Employees

It is not possible to run all aspects of a business and be aware of everything that occurs. Therefore, ask the people who DO know. Someone in management might have a good idea for preventing employee theft while a cashier has an idea for preventing shoplifting. Employees might be aware of weaknesses and strengths that aren’t apparent to other employees. Brainstorming will at least bring awareness to all employees and remind them that everyone is working on the same side. It might also discourage a dishonest employee from stealing from you if they realize you are aware and care about preventing theft.
Do more than pay “lip-service” to employee suggestions. If they believe you are serious about crime prevention and value their input, they are more likely to take it seriously themselves.
Employees also need to be educated on what to do if they spot criminal activity. It is frustrating and not particularly useful to have an employee who can spot a shoplifter as he’s walking out the door but doesn’t know how to react. Many criminals take advantage of an employee’s uncertainty and slow response to victimize the business repeatedly. Your employees should know exactly how to respond if they see suspicious behavior and should know when and how to contact Police should the need arise. If someone is being watched filling their pockets with merchandise for several minutes and the Police are not notified until after the suspect drives away, its safe to say the call was made “a little too late. “

Be Willing to PROSECUTE!

The sections in this guide will give tips on what information is needed to prosecute a case successfully. However, for most crimes, every detail about the incident becomes irrelevant if you are not willing to cooperate with law enforcement and the Prosecutors Office during prosecution. Take the time to make a clear, detailed statement to police and give your employees ample time as well. Allow employees the time needed to appear in court if necessary. Employees are more likely to exhibit crime prevention awareness if they know something will come of their effort.

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design

Natural Access Control

Natural access control works to eliminate access to potential crime targets while increasing the perception of risk. It is accomplished by clearly marking public access routes through the use of limited entrances, sidewalks, and other natural elements. While not forbidding or completely preventing access, it aims to make it obvious if someone is somewhere they are not supposed to be, thus drawing attention to them. In a retail or business setting this would include placing the registers in the front of the store, blocking direct “escape” routes with displays, benches or planters, limiting the number of entrances and exits as well as signs directing customers to parking lots and entrances.

Natural Surveillance

Natural surveillance is the use of the eyes and ears of those who are around regularly to help monitor your business. These “eyes” can be customers, neighbors or other businesses. It is accomplished through well-lit parking lots, loading areas, and store fronts, windows that provide a clear view in and out of a business and a pedestrian friendly sidewalk. Storefront windows should look out at the parking lot (especially rear lots) or street and should not be blocked by shelving, advertising, or other signs. Entrances should all be under visual or electronic surveillance.

Territorial Reinforcement

Territorial reinforcement is using low fencing or landscaping to define property lines and to reinforce what is public versus private land. Gates or fencing that is only 4 or 5 feet high is easy enough to overcome, but only at the risk of attracting the attention of a passer-by. It gives those in charge of an area a feeling of control while it discourages potential offenders.

Target Hardening

Target hardening simply makes it as difficult as possible to attack a crime target. It includes elements such as dead-bolt locks, window bars, bright lighting, interior door hinges and the use of security systems.
According to 2005 data, there were 4,500 full time residents in Mount Ephraim. We would like that number to swell dramatically during business hours. That will make well over 4,500 sets of eyes available to assist our Police Department and help make Mt. Ephraim a safer place to live, work and do business.

Crime Prevention through Partnerships

“Business Watch” program

Business watch programs work in business districts much like a neighborhood watch works in neighborhoods. A business watch forms links between local businesses, as well as with the Police Department. Businesses in an area act as eyes and ears for both Police and for other businesses, reducing the opportunity for criminals to strike. By working together and conveying information about suspects, criminals lose the opportunity to shoplift, burglarize, rob, or otherwise victimize your business and your customers.

Consider creating a phone tree or fax network with other businesses in Mount Ephraim or surrounding and bordering towns. Share information about shoplifters you have caught or suspect of stealing from you, lists of people who have repeatedly passed bad checks, merchandise or property that has been stolen from you (in case someone tries to pawn or return it somewhere else) and any other information you feel can prevent a similar crime elsewhere or help identify a suspect. In many cases, criminals generate an M. O. (Modus Operandi or Mode of Operation). This means they often commit the same crimes, employing the same methods and tactics in various different locataions along a given route.communication between local businesses can often lead to not only protection against future criminal acts, but also to identification of possible suspect. The same crook that broke open your vending machine, may have commited the same crime a few doors down and may be looking to repeat the effort in the near future somewhere along the same path. Something as simple as communication can easily thwart this activity and just as importantly keep other business owners on their toes and looking out for specific behaviors. Don’t forget to communicate with the Police Department if you feel you have information that will assist us in our investigations as well.

Work with the Schools

Working to educate local students on the availability of careers and jobs in Mount Ephraim will help to reduce the amount of crime that occurs in a number of ways. By teaching high school, and even some middle school students job skills students are more likely to make the transition from school to work smoothly and with the skills needed to maintain a stable economy in the Borough. High rates of employment and a stable economy makes Mount Ephraim less vulnerable to many types of crime, including burglary, robbery, vandalism, drug and alcohol abuse and reduces the amount of bad checks and other fraud that occurs. By reducing these crimes, it improves a business’ bottom line, increasing job security and the possibility of expansion. A low crime rate and qualified workers also helps to attract new businesses to the Borough.

Help Clean Up!

The “broken windows” theory states that the more decay or “broken windows” in an area, the less people tend to take care of it and the more it becomes vulnerable to being taken over by criminal activity. A simple way to help prevent criminal activity from taking hold in a given area, is to keep it maintained and clean. Fixing graffiti, smashed glass, and removing trash from vacant or unused properties all help to deter the criminal element from coming in while simultaneously helping to attract customers. Consider asking employees to volunteer and recruiting community members to help clean up by offering awards, prizes or gift certificates to your store for those who participate.

Encourage the Reporting of Crime by Customers

Remind customers through signage that shoplifting and other criminal activity in your business affects them directly by increasing the price of your goods. Ask for their cooperation in reporting any suspicious behavior they observe while shopping. Leave a phone number they can call if they would like to report it anonymously if necessary. Offer a reward for any tips that lead to the arrest and prosecution for a crime against your business. Give your customers the information they need to help you keep their costs down and your business thriving and at the same time let the criminals know that you are no easy target!

Crime Prevention for Residents

Many of the residential crimes that occur within the Borough of Mount Ephraim are crimes of impulse and opportunity.  Often times these crimes can be avoided by taking simple, yet affective steps to deter the opportunistic criminal from your property.  The following ideas are just a few fundamental and basic tips that our residents can take and modify to meet their specific needs. Remember, there is no way to completely guarantee that you’ll never become a victim of someone else’s greed. However, a strong and close nit community, a proactive and dedicated Police Department and your own situational awareness can absolutely reduce the likelihood of inviting a criminal into your life.

Avoiding Vehicle Burglaries

As basic as it may sound, you’d be surprised at how many crimes occur in unlocked motor vehicles, homes, sheds, garages or other buildings. In some cases criminals will simply find the most dimly lit areas of town and walk the streets pulling on car door handles.  Many of these opportunistic crooks will pass by 10 or 20 cars that are locked or appear to be alarmed knowing all too well that they will eventually find 1 or 2 that are unlocked for easy access. Once they find that unlocked car, they can easily climb inside, deactivate the interior lighting and essentially have unlimited time to methodically go through their proceeds without ever being seen under the cloak of darkness. Loose change, cash, electronics (like GPS units, IPods, MP3 players, Cell Phones, etc…) and documents often become the target of theft in these cases and ultimately leave the victims shaking their heads wondering “why them?”  The answer is simple; your neighbor’s car was locked and yours wasn’t which in turn made you and your vehicle an “easy target” for the opportunistic thief. Take the following steps to reduce your vulnerability and make sure you don’t become an easy target.•Lock your doors!Cars come with door locks for a reason, use them and make your car one of the 10 or 20 that got passed up that night.•Remove all valuables and electronics from clear view. Leaving a GPS unit on your windshield over night is very tempting for the opportunistic crook. Advertising expensive contents is a good way to make your car a lucrative score. Use your glove compartment, center console or door pockets to keep your valuables (that must remain in the car) out of sight. Never leave money, wallets or purses out in the open in your vehicle.•If possible, park your car in well lit areas. We don’t all have driveways accessible so if you have an option to park under a street light, do so. If not, try to angle one of your residential exterior lights so that it lights up your normal parking spot as much as possible without creating a void on your property.•Finally, keep an eye out for your neighbors and if you see suspicious activity, report it to the Police Department immediately. If we all work together to keep our neighborhoods safe, the opportunistic crooks won’t have a chance.

Residential Crime Prevention

Much like the simple steps to protecting your vehicle, there are a few simple yet affective ways to combat opportunistic and impulsive crimes against your home and property as well. In many cases, criminals look for dark or dimly lit areas that will assist in hiding their activity. If they have a block of homes to choose from, they will almost always go to the one that appears to be the least prepared for their visit. Again, this is all about opportunity and ease of success. If you leave a box of cash in your driveway for the night, chances are it’s not going to be there when you wake up; the same goes for your personal property. Things we overlook or view as menial can be very valuable on the black market or at the scrap yard.  That brings me to my next topic; metal, scrap and anything that contains metal.  If it has metal in it, you can bet that it’s got value to an opportunistic thief.  The following steps are just a few ways to help remove yourself from the sights of a crook looking for an easy score.

•Lighting is an essential part of basic security.  If you strategically place security lighting or motion sensitive lighting around your property, you can very effectively protect yourself from the opportunistic thief.  Set your lighting up to eliminate shadows in and around windows and doorways so that there is nowhere to hide illicit behavior.

•Keep movable metal objects under cover or out of direct view from the street.  Often times “scrappers” will prowl the streets at night looking for metal that they can turn in to the scrap yard for cash.  This is a growing trend among thieves and the items that are being stolen are sometimes things that you’d never expect would have value to a petty thief.  Avoid tempting would be scrappers to enter your property by keeping this stuff in the back yard or under a tarp.  Many times the inviting scrap metal can lead a crook to discovering other security risks on your property that they would otherwise have never noticed.

•If you spend long nights or even days at a time away from home, try to put interior lights on timers and encourage neighbors to park in your driveway from time to time.  This creates the perception that someone is home and the residence may not be an easy target.  On the other hand, a home that portrays the perception of being vacant or empty for long periods of time makes for a very tempting target to the opportunistic thief.

•Finally, maintain contact with your neighbors and help each other keep an eye out for suspicious behavior in the neighborhood.  If you see something that looks out of place or a person that seems suspicious, call the police and give the best description you can.  The best thing you can do in this case is be a good witness and supply the dispatcher with the best description and direction of travel as possible.