Businesses use escorts for safety

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, February 8, 2012

For the last two months, police in Andalusia have responded to more than 140 calls for business and funeral escorts, while performing nearly 600 business, building and security checks.

The services, Assistant Police Chief Mike Bowlan said, is designed to not only protect property but also to deter crime.

“Most police cars say on the side, ‘Serve and Protect,’ and this service is a prime example of that,” Bowlan said. “There’s a misconception that when a business closes and locks, the clerk has a bag full of money. That’s not true in this day and time of armored cars and credit card sales. Still, that doesn’t prevent thieves from thinking they can make some quick cash by grabbing one of those bags.

“If there’s a police car sitting out from when the clerks lock up, that will cause a potential thief to pause,” he said. “It’s not so much for the protection of the money. It’s for the protection of the employees. It’s not worth losing someone losing their life over a small amount of money.”

Bowlan said officers also perform inside and outside business checks.

“During the day, shoplifting is a problem for businesses everywhere,” he said. “If a clerk notices someone displaying the signs of shoplifting, they can call us and we can do a walk through, which can prevent the crime from occurring.

“At night, officers check buildings as a courtesy to business owners, because the sales tax they generate is what pays our salaries,” he said. “Officers will get out of their vehicle and physically check to see if the door is locked.

“Business burglaries also occur at night,” he said. “By doing checks, officers can find them as they occur, because the sooner we find them, the sooner they can be solved.”

McDonalds manager Lamonde Smith knows firsthand the benefits of using a police escort for making night deposits.

In July 2010, the night manager was robbed at gunpoint of several thousands of dollars as she attempted to make the store’s deposit at the then-Wachoiva bank just before 3 a.m.

Police have not made an arrest in the case, but it did shed light on why merchants should utilize the public service offered by the police department.

Smith said Monday the service has a two-fold benefit.

“It protects not only the clerk, but also the business,” Smith said. “We don’t have to worry about the clerk’s safety and the company is protected against a robbery. It’s a great benefit.”

Smith said the restaurant is a consistent user of the service – “In fact, every night,” he said.

“The process is simple,” he said. “A clerk can call the police department and say they’re ready to go. An officer is usually here in less than five minutes. That’s all there is to it.”

Bowlan said the police escort and business checks are available to any local business by calling 222-1155.