GREENVILLE — Although the recent crime spree in Greenville has seen a downturn, local authorities hosted a seminar for business owners Tuesday on how to keep the declining trend going.
Greenville Department of Public Safety Interim Director Gary Valentine presented a Business Security and Crime Prevention seminar for business owners to give them ideas on how to prevent crime at their businesses.
“Greenville has always been a leader,” said Valentine of city leaders developing programs to better the community.
Valentine walked attendees through how crime prevention is defined, ways of preventing crime and how to handle a situation when a crime has occurred.
Valentine defined crime prevention as “the anticipation, recognition and initiation of action to removed or reduce crime.”
When breaking this definition down, he said business owners need to anticipate people are going to break the law. Business owners need to be aware of what the “bad guy” could or wants to steal from that type of business.
“That’s just the nature of the beast,” Valentine said. “You need to expect internal and external (theft).”
When asking attendees what items most people go after in their business, Linda Huckleberry, co-owner of Huckleberry’s Restaurant, said it’s more likely to be bottles of liquor or someone walking out on a bill.
Deb Huch, co-owner of Huch’s Fine Jewelry, said it would be someone pocketing jewelry.
With these facts in mind, Valentine said business owners must do something to reduce their risk of crime and vulnerability.
“The police cannot be everywhere,” he said. “The business owner needs to step up and take action.”
There are a few ways to help deter crime at businesses, such as security cameras, placing signs on doors and windows, greeting customers and being attentive.
“Some things are not feasible for every business, because of money,” Valentine said. “But it does not always have to cost money.”
Business owners should make sure employees are trained and their appearance represents the business, he said.
“The appearance of your employees says a lot about you (as) the business owner, the type of business you run and the vulnerability of your business,” he said.
Business owners should try to place items in the store so when an employee is in their typical spot, they are able to see most if not all items in the store, Valentine said.
Because of some layouts, this might not be able to happen in all businesses. Valentine suggested getting bells with different sounds placed at each entrance so employees know where to direct their attention when someone enters the facility.
Valentine said placing signs such as “Shoplifters Will Be Prosecuted” are also good ideas, but he noted business owners must follow through with calling police. Police do not want to have a reputation of not doing anything about the crime.
Valentine suggested having a set policy for all employees on what to do when a theft situation happens.
How to handle situations
“Do not be a hero,” Valentine said. “Be a good witness.”
When a person at a business is suspected of a crime, employees should follow the legal basics of proof because of legal issues.
Employees should observe customers as they enter the business to ensure they enter with empty hands and merchandise is not brought into the store for a refund.
“Observe (the customer) from beginning to end,” Valentine said.
State law allows an employee to make an arrest if they have reasonable cause; however, apprehending a shoplifter can be physically and legally dangerous, Valentine said.
Retail fraud or robbery
Valentine defined the difference between retail fraud and a robbery. He said retail fraud is when a theft occurs without aggressive behavior, while a robbery is the theft of an item where force or violence is used against anyone present.
“A robbery can be armed or unarmed,” he said.
If a robbery were to occur, Valentine said law enforcement would generally suggest complying with the suspect and try to be observant.
“You will be the best witness,” he said. “However, property is not worth losing your life over.”
Valentine stressed business owners and employees should not try be a hero, but to evaluate each situation.
“I have heard about business owners getting guns (for their business) without having to go through special training,” said Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce Co-Executive Director Gae Donovan-Wolfe. She inquired about the laws to find out what is legal.
If a person is put into jeopardy, they are able to use necessary force to protect themselves, Valentine said, but he added items such as pepper spray cannot be used to detain someone until police get to the scene.
As for laws involving guns, Valentine said there is a difference between having a concealed gun and carrying it around compared to owning one for protection at a business.
He recommended anyone with a guy to be trained on how to use it.
“Again, it all comes down to personal preference,” Valentine said. “Don’t be a hero, but don’t be a lamb.”