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Business bands together to fight crime

Last weekend’s trio of commercial break-ins only served to reinforce the purpose of a gathering of Claremont residents and business owners held just 3 days later.

Following Claremont Chamber of Commerce announcing its intent to address the uptick in commercial crime by hosting an educational seminar, business burglars struck again a mere street away from the location of the proposed meeting. Addressing these issues and how to keep our businesses safe could not be timelier, said Sergeant Lori Davenport to a crowd of about 50 concerned business folk Wednesday morning.

“We recognize that crime is increasing,” she said. “We are trying to come up with solutions.”

Sgt. Davenport and Detective Isaac Reyes spoke to about 50 people crowded into the Chamber conference room, answering questions and delivering tips on how to keep businesses safe. Particularly between the hours of 12:30 and 5:30 a.m. as that has been the time burglars have been targeting local shops.

Among those in the audience was Mike Manning, owner of the Claremont Village’s Last Drop Cafe, the aforementioned shop broken into down the street from the Claremont Chamber. While it was already his intent to attend the crime seminar, the break-in at his shop was a startling reminder.

Mr. Manning explained he had unfortunately taken down his camera system the day before the break-in in order to make necessary repairs. While officers did patrol through the area of his cafe just half an hour before the incident took place, it only took suspects 2 minutes to throw a rock at his glass storefront and make off with the cash register. Though only about $137 was in the register, Mr. Manning has been left with hundreds in damages.

“It’s great that the police are reaching out to the business owners and trying to find a solution to this problem,” Mr. Manning said.

Police presented a series of tips to eager listeners. One of the most important tools in crime prevention is an alarm system with the proper precautions set in place, according to Sgt. Davenport. She suggested that business owners direct alarm companies to call the police immediately should an alarm be activated.  

“It’s never a problem for us,” Sgt. Davenport insisted. “The way the trend is going right now, better to get us there as quick as possible because there is already a delay from when that alarm gets activated to when the alarm company is making those calls. If they can call us first...we can get there pretty quick.”

The position of a camera is also significant, added Det. Reyes. Instead of placing a camera in the corner of a store looking down, he noted that the smoke shop on Auto Center Drive places its camera at eye level. That way, police are able to get a good look at the suspects face instead of the top of their head: “It helps us narrow down the time from,” Det. Reyes noted.

He also suggested that instead of placing a camera to look at the business, mounting it to face outward so footage picks up what direction the suspect takes off and potentially picks up a description or license plate of a getaway vehicle.

Motion detectors and audible alarm systems are another great resource. And for those stores with glass storefronts, the target for several of the recent break-ins, Sgt. Davenport recommended an action swaying from the popular belief: Rather than closing up your register, leave the door wide open.

“If they know there is no money in the cash register, hopefully they are not going to break in,” Sgt. Davenport said. She further suggested leaving a note on the door stating that the business does not leave money in the store at night.

Appropriate lighting was also emphasized. Contrary to the accepted practice of leaving an office dimly lit or dark when workers are away, officers suggested that it’s after hours are when employees should be cranking up the lighting.

“It’s just like how we light up our porch at night so we can see who is at the door. When [officers] drive through and work patrol at night...we get out on foot and check doors and stuff, but we can’t see inside,” said Sgt. Davenport, who suggested LED lighting or motion-sensor lights to keep costs down. “It’s fairly inexpensive to put these different lighting systems in place.”

Appropriate lighting throughout business complexes and shopping centers was an area of concern for many of those present. City Manager Tony Ramos, present at the morning meeting, ensured that the city would do whatever necessary to ensure that the owners of these centers are working to ensure safety in Claremont’s business sectors.

Likewise, Chamber CEO Maureen Aldridge said she would work with Chamber members to help build “Business Watch” groups similar to the idea of neighborhood watches. Businesses in the Vons Shopping Center, for example, could band together and help keep an eye out for suspicious activity. If funds are available, Ms. Aldridge added that the Chamber could look into creating Business Watch stickers to be fixed to the front of local businesses as an extra crime-fighting measure.

Residents chimed in other ways they are taking extra precautions. Marty Moreno, manager of Claremont Lock and Key, mentioned he his business has lined the glass with a security film after hearing about burglaries smashing rocks through the front of businesses in order to gain access.

Claremont resident Ed Reece of the Claremont Crime Prevention Coalition also suggested including a glass censor. As residents take matters into their own hands, making appropriate changes to keep their property and businesses safe, Sgt. Davenport emphasized the police force is also taking extra precautions to get to the bottom of the break-ins.

“As distressing as it is to you to have your business broken into, it is for us also,” Sgt. Davenport said. “We don’t like to see the crime rate go up...but we are changing things up and trying to address what’s going on.”

—Beth Hartnett

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