RCMP talk crime prevention with local businesses

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, July 26 2016

On Wednesday, July 6, 2016, Cst. Gary O’Brien, Media Relations Officer and Crime Stoppers Coordinator for the Nanaimo RCMP, stopped by the Roxy to give a presentation to merchants about developing an awareness of fraud, shoplifting and target hardening their premises. About a dozen of Gabriola’s local businesses came out for the event, which was organized by the Gabriola Chamber of Commerce. 

“From the perspective of shoplifting, it encompasses what to look for and how to lay out the store,” says Cst. O’Brien. We talked about shoplifters concealing items and trying to leave the store. We even took it a step further and talked about what to do in the event of a robbery and why some businesses may experience crime more than others and what criminals are looking for.

“Businesses should be aware of target hardening their premises as criminals will scout out a location. Venders should be on the lookout for people who are not shopping. Shoplifters will also look at where employees are standing, what alarm systems are in place, and how many people are working at closing time.

“If you’re robbed, you don’t want to contaminate evidence so you must protect the scene. I distributed height strips that can easily be put on doors so when they see a person leaving their store they can eyeball how tall they are.”

There is also an emotional impact on employees after being robbed. Cst. O’Brien says some of these symptoms might be memory loss, denial, survivor mentality, questioning, lack of sleep, tardiness or dismissiveness, and all of these are short-term impact situations. RCMP Victims Services are able to assist victims of crime.

Credit card fraud is another big concern for small businesses, and some things to watch for are credit cards taken out of pockets, not wallets, no signature on the back of credit cards and an unwillingness to sign in front of the clerk. “Your spider senses should be kicking in if the photo identification doesn’t match.”

Online purchasing is one of the biggest means of committing fraud, especially when the name and the address don’t match. Often items are dropped off at a common spot where someone else is picking up the item.

Cst. O’Brien says every business experiences theft and fraud, but perhaps less on Gabriola because there are fewer people. “But as the population doubles in the summer, criminals take advantage of the ferry. They know they’re only going to be on the island for four hours, and they have that much time to do fraud transactions and then they’re gone. Their chances of being detected are slim to none.”

One last note for business was about committing to a zero tolerance policy on shoplifting, particularly when kids are involved. “The RCMP have different means for dealing with shoplifting. Kids aren’t going to go directly to jail.” He says businesses should try to notice if kids are walking into a store, not saying hello, or coming in pairs. One of the shoplifters might try to distract the clerk while the other one does the shoplifting.

“You have to enforce your zero tolerance policy on shoplifting, because word gets out pretty quick if you don’t. Never hide at the till, walk the store, acknowledge everyone. When you walk into 7-Eleven the clerk says hello. That means I see you, you’re in my store, you’re not invisible. Hiring young people might also raise a concern. They may be involved with friends coming in and turning a blind eye.”