Many businesses are making themselves easy targets for burglars and thieves, especially with the sort of smash-and-grab tactics that are trending up recently, law enforcement officials told a group of about 40 owners and managers Tuesday.
“Make it as difficult for them as possible,” said Macon police Lt. David Freeland, one of the speakers at the Business Crime Seminar hosted by the Middle District of Georgia U.S. attorney’s office and Macon Regional Crimestoppers.
The most effective protection, he and other speakers stressed, is a quality security system. The top “hot spot” for business crime -- convenience stores -- often do not have security systems. Even some banks have cameras that are merely shells and are not recording video.
Freeland described a convenience store as “an easy target” in many of the types of crimes that lawmen list as current trends.
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“A lot of the store owners may not have the money to invest in a security system. Thieves are trying to target the places with less security.”
Freeland pointed to a rise of smash-and-grab burglaries in which thieves back trucks or cars through the fronts of stores and then make off with the machine or its contents. He advised store owners to move ATMs away from the front of stores. “It’s convenient for people to use, but it’s also convenient for the bad guy,” he said.
Another trend has been burglars busting in to take cigarettes, sometimes as many as 400 cartons.
“We believe they’re selling them on the streets to those bootleg houses,” Freeland said.
Another recommendation was putting cash in safes and moving safes to more secure locations within sight of a surveillance camera.
“We know the holidays are coming up and there’s going to be a lot more money involved,” Freeland noted ‘‘If you’re not going to use a safe, take the money home and make a deposit.”
The seminar focused on other topics ranging from the rise in metal thefts to how to spot counterfeit cash.
The rash of metal thefts, especially copper, has been a problem not only in Macon but nationwide and led to the formation of the Southeast Metal Theft Task Force. Thieves will trash a $6,000 air conditioner for less than $100 in metals, and they target both homes and businesses.
Through the task force, recycling companies and law enforcement agencies share information about thefts that have successfully led to arrests.
“We’re not going to stop it completely,” said Joe Bulat, director of safety at Schnitzer SE, a metal recycling company.
The company helps head up the task force and has stepped up security measures with changes in equipment and procedure at its Macon locations and other sites. For example, every customer is photographed on the company’s scales.
“We’ve gone as far as we don’t take walk-ins,” Bulat said. “If they come up pushing a cart or carrying a tote with copper in it, we’re not going to do that transaction.”
U.S. Secret Service agent Derek Lyman, who works a 22-county area in the midstate, advised business owners and managers on how to spot counterfeit money.
The latest trick by counterfeiters is bleach smaller bills, usually $5 bills, and doctor them to appear to be larger denominations. One way to spot to fake money is to identify the president on the bills.
“Abraham Lincoln doesn’t belong on a $50,” Lyman said.
Real money is printed on cotton, so it has a different feel than fake paper money. Another tool is the pens containing iodine solution that stains counterfeit paper money. The most effective was to identify counterfeit cash remains checking for the red and blue fibers embedded in the real bills.
“The pen is a good way to start,” Lyman said. “The red and blue fibers are the best giveaway.”
Robin Burgess, who runs Salon Centric beauty and barber supply store in the Bloomfield area, said she had asked repeatedly for a crime analysis of the neighborhood for security planning.
After the meeting, she met with police officers to arrange getting the data.
“I don’t have to tell you that area is not that good, so I need all the help I can get with crime prevention,” she said before the seminar.
Afterward, she was happy with the meeting.
“It was very informative. I feel a lot better now.”
To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.