Efforts Made to Prevent Crimes
To Brent Shockley, the small coffee table outside his business was nothing more than a worthless piece of furniture. In hindsight, it turned out to be very costly.
Shockley said he thinks the table was used by someone in February to break into his business, The Coffee Cabin in Southern Pines.
"They stood it on its side and hopped through the window," Shockley said.
Shockley, a co-owner of the business, said the thief made off with $150 cash that was left inside the building overnight after an apparent weekend break-in. He reported the incident Feb. 6.
"They only took bills, no coins," Shockley said. "Whoever it was, they knew what they were doing."
The Southern Pines Police Department is trying to do more to help businesses and homeowners avoid being victims of crime.
Bob Temme is the community services coordinator for the department. He works with homeowners and business owners to help make properties safer through a program he calls Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.
Officers will come out and do a survey of the business or home and make recommendations to the owners about things they can do to improve the safety of their building and surrounding property. The survey often takes 60 to 90 minutes.
"When you go to your business every day, you don't see things that are there," Temme said.
Old furniture, rocks, bricks or other heavy objects that are used to prop open back doors during business hours can be used to gain access to a building if those objects are left outside.
Other things Temme said business owners could do is to remove things such as signs and posters from windows to limit obstruction of views.
"Putting up large posters cuts down on natural surveillance " Temme said.
Covered windows make it harder for police officers on patrol to look inside for possible suspicious activity.
Keeping areas well lit is another way to increase visibility and make it harder for criminal activity to go unnoticed.
Shockley, who has been in business less than two months, said he is changing the way he operates in order to prevent future problems.
"I'm not leaving money in the place overnight anymore, and we are looking at investing in an alarm system and security cameras," Shockley said.
Janet Fowler, owner of the Sandhills Feed Supply in Southern Pines, said she was victimized by what she believed were a pair or trio of individuals working together. She said those individuals entered the store during regular business hours, distracted an employee and managed to make off with an estimated $700 in cash.
Police would not comment on the incident specifically, saying it was still under investigation.
"Crime is not something that is solved in 60 minutes like it is on television," said Southern Pines police Lt. Rodney Hardy. "I can say we are exploring all our leads and using all the resources available to us."
Hardy said Southern Pines is safe, when compared with other towns of similar size. He said that fact can sometimes give residents and business owners a false sense of security when it comes to crime.
"Sometimes they are lulled into that 'it-can't-happen-to-me' mindset," he said.
Hardy encourages businesses to make sure they are doing everything possible to prevent crimes from happening, such as having security cameras and alarm systems, having multiple employees working at the same time and keeping all doors and windows locked.
"The main thing is that you have to be aware of your surroundings," Hardy said. "If someone comes into your business, make eye contact with them and address them as soon as possible."
Temme echoed Hardy's statements.
"Greet people right away when they come into the store," Temme said. "Let them know that you can identify them. Don't leave them alone in the store and offer to hold their packages for them."
Shockley said Southern Pines police came out and gave him tips to make his business safer.
"They were very helpful," Shockley said. "I just wish I could have learned in a different fashion."
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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