We’re celebrating Small Business Week with the West Branch Beats Team. The group take on a large portion of small business hubs like 124 Street, Stony Plain Road, and surrounding neighbourhoods.
“We were seeing a lot of break-ins at these small shops in the area,” says Cst. Brady Dryer. “People were unsure who to report it to and where to go so we started meeting with the High Street management group and checking in on each of the businesses—stopping in and giving them our contact information.”
What the team found was that many incidents were not being reported. Also, there were a lot of quick and easy solutions to preventing crime.
“We do what’s called a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) assessment,” says Cst. Kevin Zylstra. “This can lead to a reduction in the incidences and reduce the fear of crime.”
A CPTED involves walking through the space and identifying areas of improvement like installing security cameras, which many of the businesses did after meeting with officers. Improved lighting, locking up cash and point of sale terminals out of sight, fixing fencing and trimming back shrubs were also suggested.
“In meeting with these businesses, we started to find out there were more and more incidents—glass being smashed and locking mechanisms busted. Eventually through CCTV footage we were able to link these crimes and figure out this was all one individual. And we were able to go talk to the businesses to target harden themselves,” says Cst. Dryer.
Eventually, the individual was arrested, and the Beats team was able to collect victim impact statements from many businesses who now had a regular, trusted contact to call with their questions and concerns.
“It’s simple stuff, really. Cameras are very cheap and the quality of them are so good now. Simple lighting. Make sure the bushes are cut down. We told every business to put away their iPad and point of sale systems. If it’s visible from the street, it’s an easy target. Removing your cash flow was another one,” says Cst. Zylstra.
The results of these daily interactions began to produce major benefits.
“We have one store on 157 Street that was identified as one of the top three highest for theft in the city,” says Cst. Dryer. “They were getting hit five to 10 times per day with theft. They were on the verge of being shut down due to a lack of profit.”
During the CPTED assessment beat officers observed a large hole in the fence that led to an alley—an easy escape for would-be thieves.
“The fence was mended, and the lighting was improved. They also trimmed back the trees. We focused our attention on this business with no tolerance for crime and disorder,” says Dryer.
The store employees learned the beat team schedules and would call the officers directly when an incident took place, saving time and resources.
“We implemented a ban system where the employees call our cell phones directly, so they don’t have to sit on the phone with a 911 evaluator while the person gets further and further away. We will locate the suspect(s), recover the product, and issue a ban to prevent future thefts,” says Cst. Dryer.
In just one quarter, the store saw a large reduction in theft. From $70,000 a year in loss to just $3,000 year to date.
Though, crime is still present in the area, the businesses are happy to have a contact and the Beats team continues to find ways to improve safety.