A burglar unscrews the metal panels of siding to slip inside an office. A thief smashes a window to get into a dark store. It might not happen to you, but it does happen all the time. Businesses get broken into and employees get hurt, says Officer Michael Walker, a Springfield police officer assigned to the Community Services Section.
“It may not happen to you or your business, but there are professional thieves here locally, and they will hit and target businesses,” he says. “There’s no business that’s exempt from any type of crime, so you have to do whatever you can to prevent criminals from targeting you.”
In Walker’s experience, local businesses are most likely to experience crime during an overnight burglary outside of the company’s normal business hours. But they aren’t usually smash-and-grab type of crimes, he says. “A large number of theft crimes are committed by professional thieves who are incredibly intelligent,” Walker says. “They’ll case a business or a neighborhood, and they’re predators. They’ll stalk their prey, and they know when the right opportunity is.”
To deter thieves, Walker recommends a three-pronged prevention strategy: Invest in a high-quality video camera, have a well lit business at all times and install an alarm system that actually works. Fake cameras and faux alarm system signs do nothing to stop a professional thief, Walker says.
“If you make yourself a harder target than the next business, then a criminal is going to pass over you,” he says. “Professional burglars are good at what they do, but they’re also lazy. They don’t want to go through the extra effort if they don’t have to.”
Keeping businesses safe includes helping employees prevent injuries. Coby Cullins, president of National Safety Compliance, helps business owners navigate the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The national mandate requires all businesses with 10 or more employees to have a written safety plan and all to follow its guidelines. But that’s just a place to start, Cullins says.
“Our products are in about 250,000 workplaces across the country, and I can say with certainty that there is no such thing as common sense,” he says. “There’s one thing to know something, and there’s another thing to do it, so we teach behavior-based safety.”
To prevent injuries, Cullins recommends starting with the basics. Do a safety audit to evaluate what is a potential hazard in your workplace and what is not. Purchase and use personal protective equipment, like keyboard wrist rests in offices and safety glasses on construction sites. And have a training plan in place so employees are trained to prevent and address accidents at work.
“The most important thing is employees’ lives and their injuries,” he says. “No one wants to make that call to a family member that your husband lost his life today or your daughter was injured. There are instances almost every year, even in Springfield, when someone dies in the workplace, and so much of that is preventable.”
From 2000 to 2015, nearly 50 percent of all active shooting incidents occurred in businesses, according to the FBI. Officer Walker stresses the need for employees to have scenario-based training, where team members mentally prepare for how they would react in a dire situation. “I teach ALICE classes for businesses,” he says. “ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. And why I like ALICE is because it gives options and makes you think through scenarios. When you’re in a situation, your body won’t go where your mind has never been. It could save your life.”