Lunch and Learn: Keeping Our Businesses Safe
A recent high-profile crime right in our neighborhood made us wonder: What would we do? What should we do? if we were potentially facing a criminal in the workplace.
That very question prompted Buzz editor Joni Hoffman to invite Bellaire Chief of Police Byron Holloway and Rania Mankarious, executive director of Crime Stoppers of Houston, to come together and provide some answers. Buzz advertisers, supporters and friends gathered over BBQ from Charlie’s BBQ yesterday to hear from Chief Holloway and Rania Mankarious on this topic. We appreciated the fact that these busy business owners took time from their packed days to listen and ask smart, important questions.
Chief Holloway said it’s important to consider how to create a safe environment, both for your employees and for your customers. He discussed ways to secure your business and to be aware of your location, your internal security and your physical security.
“Put yourself in the mind of a criminal,” he suggested, explaining that business owners should walk around their businesses and look at them through the eyes of a potential criminal. He said that the easier a location is to break into, the more emboldened a crook will be, and all that business owners should work to minimize potential robbers’ confidence. His tips included:
- Establish your business’ exits and entryways
- Make sure doors, windows and walls include locks, keys, cameras and alarms
- Make sure you have a posted fire escape plan
- Maintain key and access code controls
- Secure cameras on the exterior and interior of your business
- Control who can access your business with gates, fences and landscapes
- Contact the Bellaire Police Department and they will come to your business and assess its safety and help provide tips for making it safer. Contact: Community Resource Officer John Edwards at 713-662-8103.
Legally speaking, Chief Holloway said that businesses have the right to protect their property, themselves and their staff. “But could you take the life of another individual for a few hundred bucks?” he asked the crowd. “I couldn’t – there’s no property worth taking someone else’s life.”
He said the priority is to get the robber out of the establishment and remove yourself from a potentially dangerous situation. If you can’t, you should be prepared to fight to defend yourself. But the best thing to do is to be as proactive as possible to protect your property and yourselves, including having cameras.
Chief Holloway said that cameras won’t deter every criminal, but it’s important to have good cameras to help law enforcement and Crime Stoppers in the event of a crime.
“A lot of times, Crime Stoppers of Houston is working with us behind the scenes, long before you hear about it on TV,” said Chief Holloway, “Crime Stoppers is an invaluable aid.”
Rania Mankarious, executive director of Crime Stoppers, said that its anonymous tip line (222-TIPS) has helped law enforcement in solving over 33,000 felony cases resulting in the arrest of over 25,000 felony fugitives. And Crime Stoppers is more than a tip line - its prevention arm helps prevent many different types of crime within businesses, banks, homes, schools and more.
“I’m a mother of three, and will do anything to help protect my kids,” Rania said, explaining that criminal activity is changing, and Houston has the highest rate of violent crimes among all major cities in Texas.
“It’s important to proactively keep your business safe,” she said. Her tips included:
- Invest in alarm systems
- Make sure you have cameras that work (it’s not enough to have cameras “just for show”)
- Place the cameras by potential targets within your business (by the front door, cash register, etc.)
- Make trips to the bank frequently and vary the times of day that you go to the bank
- Don’t put money in a “money bag”
- Consider displaying a sign that says “No cash kept on premises” or something along these lines to let potential robbers know that your store isn’t a good target
Rania also said it’s important to have conversations with staff members to discuss what to do in case of a crime. The important part is to stay calm and cooperate and the goal is to get the robber out the door quickly.
What makes your business an easy target? Rania says cash businesses with late-night hours, young staff or mom-and-pop shops may seem like an easy target, so be sure to train employees and be as proactive as possible.
We know there’s so much more to discuss on this topic. Please leave your questions and thoughts in the comment section below and we’ll be sure to pass them on to Rania and Chief Holloway.
If you’re a business owner who wants more information on how to keep your business safe, please call Crime Stoppers’ administrative office at 713-521-4600. Plus, check out Rania’s weekly blog series, “Sunday Mornings with Rania.”
For any Bellaire businesses interested in having a security screening from the Bellaire Police Department, please contact Community Resource Officer John Edwards: 713-662-8103. Chief Holloway said they are also willing to assist businesses that are slightly outside of Bellaire in locating resources available to them.
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