During a special Chamber of Commerce workshop on Wednesday April 5, Bainbridge Island Police Department Chief Joe Clark and Community Resource Officer Zach Burnham addressed a cross-section of local business and commercial property owners in the BIMA Auditorium. They updated the community with tips and tactics based on the kinds of break-ins island businesses have been subjected to in recent months, best practices to secure their locations, and a new service from the BIPD to help support those efforts.
- Reported crime levels in Q1 2023 were noticeably lower than a year earlier – principally due to key arrests being made of serial offenders across Kitsap County
- BIPD currently has 24 officers and is in the process of expanding that number
- Officer Burnham has completed his formal training as a Resource Officer and is now available to provide site inspections and personalized security tips for all local business locations
- Officers do patrol the island each night by cruiser (and in Winslow, also by bike) – covering both businesses and storage units
- All calls – both emergency AND non-emergency should go through the 911 switchboard in Kitsap County. Just let them know if your need is not an emergency (and be prepared to be put on hold if an emergency call comes in)
Crime & Crime Prevention
While the overall number of crimes has recently dropped, smash-and-grab entries, phone-based scams and serial property crimes still occur – and there are key tactics and practices that all Bainbridge businesses should adopt or refresh to keep their property as secure as possible. Some tips are essentially common sense, some are hard-won insights, and all 10 are as delivered by Officer Burnham and Police Chief Clark:
- Always lock up: As simple as this sounds, many property crimes on Bainbridge still come from people not locking doors, windows, vehicles at night – or by people keeping the keys in clear view (on a hook, for example). Paying more attention to security and training your staff to do the same is the first step when it comes to hardening any location. Make sure you know where all the keys to your business are – especially if they are used infrequently – and store them securely, preferably in a lockbox. When it comes to perimeter locks, make sure you have deadbolts on all entry points.
- Alarms, Loud Alarms: Act as a strong deterrent to criminals looking for a quick score and may call the police automatically, speeding the reaction time. Consider a door alarm that can let you know when customers enter/exit, even when you don’t have line-of-sight to the entry point. Make sure to register your alarm, providing a contact number in case an incident does occur. Test them quarterly (but let the police know before you do!).
- Security Cameras: Helps both to ID the criminal(s) who broke in to your business – which may lead to the capture of whomever tried to break in to your location or prevent another incident if suspicious behavior can be tied to previous offenders. Many systems now offer a live feed to mobile phone apps, letting you see what is happening at your business in real time no matter where you are.
- Lights: All cameras, especially cheaper cameras, benefit from good lighting. Try to consider both when installing new equipment or upgrading an existing setup.
- Cash on Hand: Minimize the amount of cash in your register and/or safe with regular bank drops
- Vegetation: If there are trees or bushes surrounding your business, try to keep them trimmed so that a patrolling officer can still quickly look inside to check all is well.
- Eye Contact: Studies show that the #1 way of deterring low-level property theft is to make eye contact with every customer that enters your location – letting them know that they are being observed (and assisted!). Positioning your register/desk to face the door makes it easier to greet all customers and to make eye contact.
- Report Shoplifters: Minor shoplifting has become one of the tests some organized groups use as a test of a business’s security. Reporting an incident and/or sharing a photo of those caught can lead to major arrests.
- Scam Awareness/Staff Training:
- When adding staff, always run background checks and complete comprehensive interviews to make sure you know who you are hiring.
- ‘See Something, Say Something’ – train all staff to not only be vigilant but also to let managers know if something seems/seemed out of place during a shift.
- ‘Basic Training’: Criminals (impersonating police) called a local store, spoke to a young employee about there being counterfeit cash in their register, and then asked the employee to take all the cash, purchase gift cards or wire money (police stopped this before the wire was completed). Remember: Police do not call businesses – if they need you, they will come to you in person and will never ask for gift cards!
- Stickers: Even if you have no security or alarm system, consider putting a sticker in your window that says you do. Non-operational cameras and/or door detectors also can be effective visual deterrents.
Upcoming: Safe Space
As an additional public safety measure, the BIPD will soon (targeted for June) implement a Safe Space Program. This provides victims of bias or hate crimes a Safe Place to go after any incident, a location where businesses will pledge to give shelter while the victim(s) call for help. Businesses will opt in, and then display a window sticker identifying them as a Safe Space.
Next Steps: BIPD Location Visits/Business Info
Officer Zach Burnham is now available to all local business owners and commercial property owners to conduct personal assessments for your business or property. Please reach out to him to schedule an appointment via email at [email protected] or by calling (206) 502-3172. Officer Burnham should also be informed of your business’s contact person in case of an alarm event or other after-hours incident.
The Chamber thanks the Bainbridge Island Police Department for this informational session and for adding a community resource officer to provide direct support to our island’s business and property owners.
The Chamber also thanks the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art for the kind use of the Frank Buxton Auditorium.