The NCS is conducted by the Office of Justice Programs at the Justice Department. It surveys individuals directly to capture data on crime that isn’t reported to the police. The FBI compiles data from crime reports produced by local law enforcement agencies across the country.
Both sources indicate that crime rates across the country are generally declining. For 2010 the FBI reports a:
- 5.5 decrease in violent crimes reported; this includes murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
- 2.8 percent decrease in property crimes reported; this includes burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.
- 8.3 percent decrease in arson reported.
This, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that businesses can simply leave the door unlocked at night. According to the Department of Justice, less than half of crimes are actually reported by victims. This leaves millions of crimes to go unaccounted for in these studies. These statistics are also national averages. But your business isn’t located in “an average” place. Some regions of the country, like the northeast, have seen a significant increase in crime since 2009.
What can your business do to stay safe?
When it comes to business safety, the goal is to prevent crime from occurring in your establishment. Fortunately there are several proven strategies:
Build a community watch program
Neighborhood and community watch programs are one of the most effective ways to reduce crime in your area and also make people feel safer. The latter is especially important for businesses that depend on retail foot traffic. Community watch programs, according to local law enforcement officials, are proven to reduce crime rates. The main challenge lies in maintaining participant interest. If you don’t have a community watch program in place, contact your local police department and have them assist you in starting one. Find a large business in your area that could serve as an anchor sponsor. Target Corporation has been involved in these programs since 2003 via their Safe City Initiative and has seen positive results.
In security industry jargon, “hardening” means making something more difficult to enter. Don’t make it easy for criminals to steal from you. Make sure that your doors, windows and locks are secure. Eliminate any trees, shrubs or other natural elements that can serve as hiding places by your doors or windows. Also consider improving your outdoor lighting. Bright lights will make it more difficult for criminals to operate clandestinely. This may sound simple, but most businesses have not conducted a security audit that covers hardening. If you haven’t done so, why not?
The Operation Identification Program launched over 30 years ago. It’s simple and effective. Owners of valuable goods should engrave or permanently mark their valuable goods with an easily identifiable number. The owner’s driver’s license number is usually recommended. Once the items are marked, compile an inventory list of the marked goods. Talk to your local police department afterwards to obtain an Operation ID decal to display in your store windows. By marking the goods in a permanent way it will become far more difficult for any stolen goods to be sold undetected. This will turn off potential criminals.
Additional ideas can be found at the CrimeSolutions.gov website sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs. This resource evaluates different programs implemented across the country and ranks them as “effective”, “promising” and “no effect.” There are currently 149 programs ranked.
When people find themselves in desperate situations, they often make poor decisions. These decisions can sometimes involve criminal activity. During difficult economic times its best to stay vigilant and be prepared.