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A Good Idea, Mixed Results

icon Blog on Crime Prevention Strategies  •  posted 04/14/16
Members of the business community in Gulfport, Fla., got together in February for the first meeting of the Beach Boulevard Business Watch. Gulfport Police Lieutenant Josh Stone told a local paper that the main objective of the crime watch program is for all businesses to get to know each other better as well as improving coordination with local police. “Getting to know each other is key. It’s strength in numbers,” Stone told The Gabber (“Beach Boulevard Combats Crime,” Feb. 24).
It sounds like a great idea. And it is a great idea. But is it truly worthwhile for facilities and business units to participate in local business watch programs? They hold the potential to reduce crime but—in practice—do they? Often, the answer is “no,” according to research on the issue. 
Business watch programs are community-based crime prevention efforts formed and managed by a group of businesses looking to reduce crime with their physical proximity or business association. It sounds simple, but successful programs have several hurdles to overcome (that many fail to clear). Problems include: 
  • a lack of time available to business representatives required for effective participation;
  • a lack of awareness about the program which dampens participation;
  • a lack of enthusiasm that eventually pervades the broad membership of a Business Watch program; and  
  • a lack of program focus or objectives, which are necessary to guide a program and make it useful.  
Companies can realize a security benefit from participating in local business watch programs, but it depends significantly on the program’s design and administration. If a program crops up near a facility an organization should look into getting involved, but it should also be wary of wasting staff time coordinating security efforts with programs that have design flaws. 
Based on studies of failed programs, these questions can help local units measure whether a business watch program is worth your organiation's participation: 
  • Does it adequately explain the elements of the program? 
  • Does it adequately promote itself to area businesses and engender enthusiasm among participants?
  • Does it sufficiently publicize itself to the public and is it highly visible? 
  • Does it outline clear objectives and strategies for achieving them?

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