Independence Police Officer Billy Pope the other day had a lot of good, common-sense advice for local business owners wanting to take the initiative on crime.
“Make your business more inviting to customers and less inviting to the bad guys,” he said at a lunch-hour Business Crime Prevention Academy put on the Independence Economic Development Council. It was the second of four presentations this summer.
Police are working with businesses to adapt the neighborhood watch concept – I watch your business, you watch mine.
“The single biggest thing you can do – the cheapest thing – is to pay attention,” he said.
And he was straightforward about some of the challenges. The police can’t be everywhere. “You help us, and hopefully we can do our job better,” he said.
Crime cannot be entirely stopped, but it can be slowed.
“We need to keep you guys from moving away, so we need to help you however we can,” he said.
He had several suggestions:
• Keep updated business records at home.
• Keep valuable property locked, and keep secure places secure. Consider engraving your valuables. Get a cheap memory card and snap pictures of your stuff, with serial numbers.
• Keep your windows generally free of signs so you can see out.
• Greet people as they come in to your business and make eye contact. This puts them on notice that you know they’re there. Don’t do enough to make the person uncomfortable, but do a quick evaluation, and trust your gut: Does the person seem nervous? Is something out of place?
• A safe room? It’s something to think about. You might need it if there’s a robber, an active shooter and even an out-of-control customer.
“It doesn’t have to be huge – just an area where you can get in there and make a call to police,” Pope said. Have a phone in there, and if you have a video surveillance system – those help the cops a lot, by the way – that might be the place to put the monitor.
All of the run/hide/fight scenarios involve judgment calls and what you’re comfortable with, but it’s a good idea to think them through. “Think about these things. Don’t dwell on it, but think about it,” Pope said. Rule No. 1 is get out if you possibly can. Leave your stuff and get out. Call 911.
Another unpleasant thing to think through – an armed robber standing in front of you at the cash register.
“Stay calm, take a deep breath, and roll through it,” Pope said. Think of it as a customer exchanging an item for cash, that just happens to be all the money in the till. Also, try to note details about the persons – tattoos, etc. – but don’t make eye contact. The robber might think you’re sizing him up.
And this isn’t TV. Don’t be a hero.
“You wouldn’t ask employees to do that,” Pope said. “Make sure they understand it.”
Don’t give chase. “Call 911, and lock the doors,” he said.
More generally, he said, take those everyday common-sense steps. Park under a light. Walk to the parking lot with a friend, with your keys out. A quick jab to the face can make a difference. Walk with your head up, look around, and project confidence.
“Don’t look like a victim,” Pope said.
There are two more lunch-hour classes, both at the Ennovation Center: “Asset Protection” on Aug. 14, on fraud and hiring employees; and “Police and Community” on Sept. 18. Go to http://bizacademy.inedc.biz.
Buying a home?
Some kudos for Grain Valley. NerdWallet, which describes itself as a consumer advocacy and financial literacy website, likes to play with statistics, and it generates a lot of lists such the best cities in Missouri for home ownership. Looking at the 84 cities in the state with 10,000 or more people, it put Grain Valley at No. 7.
The city got high marks for its home ownership rate – 65.7 percent, according to census data – and population growth, 9.4 percent from 2010 to 2012. Those two factors account for two-thirds of the scoring; other factors are median home values and monthly owner costs as a percentage of income. The median home value in the city is $153,700.
Raymore was the only other metro city to rank in the top 10, at No. 3. Two St. Louis suburbs, Dardenne Prairie and Wentzville, were Nos. 1 and 2. Lee’s Summit was No. 12, Blue Springs was No. 22, and Independence was No. 39. The state’s three largest cities didn’t do so well: Kansas City was No. 67, Springfield was No. 72, and St. Louis was almost at the bottom, No. 82.
NerdWallet also tallied Census Bureau figures on median monthly household income: Lee’s Summit, $6,348; Blue Springs, $5,542; Grain Valley, $5,458; Kansas City, $3,763; and Independence, $3,737.
Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s business reporter and editor. Reach him at 816-350-6313 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @FoxEJC or @Jeff_Fox.