Deterring criminal activity a community responsibility

You better believe the B&E artists, shoplifters and vandals are out there doing their security checks.

  • May. 28, 2015 12:00 p.m.

If you’re a business person or homeowner who doesn’t think it’s necessary to pay much attention to security matters around your premises, a word of advice: You better believe the B&E artists, shoplifters and vandals are out there doing their security checks.

That was the message Carol-Ann Rolls, Executive Director at Cowichan Region Community Policing and Crime Prevention, delivered to a group of business people gathered at the Best Western Chemainus Inn May 19.

Just how lackadaisical can people get when it comes to protecting themselves against and reporting property crimes. Rolls tells the story of an experiment in Surrey, where police played the role of shoplifters, pinching merchandize from under store owners noses.

The project had to be discontinued after a couple of weeks because they quickly ran out of room to store the goods. The most blatant ‘theft’ occurred when two officers walked out of a store with a canoe and were not challenged.

While the story drew some laughs, Rolls made it clear that vigilance when it comes to property crime prevention has to be a community mindset; and if a community lets the ‘bad guys’ get away with it, the whole neighbourhood suffers.

“The costs are really beyond the direct costs to the businesses,” she said. Thieves and vandals are shrewd when it comes to casing neighbourhoods. If they sense there are easy targets, they’ll be back for more. If, on the other hand, they know a neighbourhood is serious about shutting them out, they’ll go someplace else.

‘Neighbourhood’ is the operative word in the equation. In a real sense the battle’s already lost if you have to dial 911. “The police can’t do it on their own, crime is really a community problem, not just a policing problem,” Rolls said.

She described a ‘triangle of crime’ that consists of: desire, ability and opportunity. If a robber wants to steal something, and has the ability, and is given the opportunity, he’ll go for it. “The only thing we can do is lessen the opportunity,” Rolls said. “If we take one side of the triangle away, crime doesn’t happen.”

CPTED is an acronym everyone in a community from the mayor on down should have top of mind when it comes to stopping crime. It stands for Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. High hedges and fences that block views to your property provide great cover for thieves; unlit alleys and unlocked doors and windows are invitations; valuable merchandize sitting in shop windows is a temptation.

Rolls distributed a Cowichan Community Policing business security check list that includes dozens of measures that can be taken to deter theft and vandalism. Cowichan Community Policing also produces a Business Watch brochure. Call 250-701-9145 for information, or go to