Organizing a Business Watch and Seeking Community Partners

Modeled after the Neighborhood Watch concept, Business Watch seeks to reduce commercial crime and the fear of crime from both the shopper’s and the shop owner’s point of view. The following steps are the most important concepts behind Business Watch:

Get to know the people who operate the neighboring businesses. They are your neighbors for eight or more hours a day. Making personal contact is the best way to get acquainted. Make an effort to introduce yourself to others—nearby residents, schools, civic groups, libraries, clubs—in the neighborhood.

Watch and report. Report suspicious behavior to law enforcement immediately, even if it means taking a chance on being wrong. A telephone tree is an effective means of sharing information with other merchants. Should a problem develop, each merchant is responsible for calling one or two others on the tree.

Secure your property. Contact your local police or sheriff’s department to conduct a security survey of your business. Ask for their advice on lights, alarms, locks, and other security measures.

Engrave all valuable office equipment and tools. Use an identification number—a tax identification number, license, or other unique number. Check with law enforcement for their recommendation.

Aggressively advertise your Business Watch group. Post signs and stickers saying that your block of businesses is organized to prevent crime by watching out for and reporting suspicious activities to law enforcement.

Adapted from Organizing a Business Watch, published by the City of Portland, Office of Neighborhood Associations.)

Looking for Community Partners?
Chambers of Commerce

Chambers of Commerce exist in thousands of communities. They can help start a Business Watch, offer crime prevention information to area businesses, or organize seminars on “hot” topics, like bad checks or credit card fraud.

Business Associations 
Merchants may join together to address a problem that directly affects their business operations. Some examples include poor street lighting,

lack of police patrols, parking, loitering, or prostitution. A business or merchant’s association could price employment for youth, community improvements, or funding for a manual on small business security.

Service Clubs 
Many communities have local chapters of such service groups as Exchange Clubs, Kiwanis, Lions, Junior League, General Federation of Women’s Clubs, Jaycees, Rotary, and Optimists. These groups take on a variety of community and business service projects. They often have many members from the local business community.

Special Interest Associations/Groups 
Businesses often join others with similar interests. Retail merchants as a whole, specialty stores, computer retailers, drug stores, grocers, cleaners, restaurants, or convenience stores may all have associations in a city or region.

Private Security 
Increased partnerships between business groups, private security, and police can enhance each other’s efforts to protect commercial areas.

Community Associations 
Business groups can find effective partners in community and neighborhood associations. Both groups have a strong stake in thriving residential and commercial areas. They are often well versed in strategies for securing physical improvements such as street lighting or road repairs. In partnership with business, they can also reach out to help solve problems that affect the entire community’s well-being—such as homelessness, lack of jobs, or the need for battered women’s shelters.

The above is an excerpt adapted from the article,”Small Business Crime Prevention.” For more information, please visit

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