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Analyzing your local problem will give you a better understanding of the factors that contribute to it. Once you have analyzed your local problem and established a baseline for measuring effectiveness, you can consider possible responses to the problem.
The following responses will provide a foundation for addressing your particular burglary problem. These strategies are drawn from research studies and police practice and are generally based on opportunity blocking. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances and that you can justify each response based upon reliable analysis. Several of these strategies may apply to your local problem; and in fact, an effective remedial strategy will likely involve the implementation of several different responses.
Because law enforcement alone is seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem, do not limit yourself to considering only what police can do; rather, carefully consider whether others in your community share responsibility for the problem and whether they can help respond to it. In some cases, responsibilities may need to be shifted toward those who have the capacity to implement more effective responses. (For more detailed information on shifting and sharing responsibility, see Response Guide No. 3, Shifting and Sharing Responsibility for Public Safety Problems). Building partnerships and working towards a collective response with the various stakeholders is essential to success.§ This is particularly true in regard to construction site burglaries, because so many of the factors that contribute to the problem are related to building practices.
§ See Problem-Solving Tools Guide No. 5 on Partnering With Businesses to Address Public Safety Problems.
There is little research evaluating responses to the problem of construction site burglaries. Therefore, the responses discussed below emphasize appropriate and practical opportunity blocking. Blocking criminal opportunities often has a greater direct effect on offenders than do other crime prevention strategies.
Police should establish cooperative working relationships with builders. In turn, builders should share information about burglary problems and patterns, local building practices, and loss prevention efforts. Builders should be encouraged to provide police with after-hour contact numbers, documentation of stolen appliances, and tool serial numbers.
If it can be established that certain houses are at a high risk for victimization, response measures can be concentrated at those locations. For example, the Port St. Lucie (Florida) Police Department determined that houses in the final stages of construction were at a higher risk of burglary and used this information to target police attention.
Examples of poor coordination of deliveries include:
§ The microchip tags used by Celebrity Houses were supplied by tool maker Bosch, whose Safe and Sound tool tracking system is an alternative to the common practice of engraving or marking (O'Malley, 2005).6. Encouraging the hiring of loss prevention personnel. Large builders especially should be encouraged to retain the services of professional loss prevention specialists who have expertise in preventing and solving burglaries and who can work closely with police and other builders to control burglary.
Some companies have found that hotlines are a cost effective way to control theft. In Northern California, a hotline system that rewards individuals up to $1,000 is funded through membership dues, association contributions, and a grant. In 2003, the system paid out $8,000 in rewards and recovered over $2 million in stolen property. §
§ A survey conducted of ten large U.S. retail companies, which represented almost 50 percent of U.S. stores, found that a hotline with some sort of rewards (for example, cash) was effective in convincing employees to report theft. The survey indicated that successful programs create a supportive environment in which reporting mechanisms and participation incentives are sufficient to encourage employees to report theft or other inappropriate behavior by their coworkers (Scicchitano, Johns, and Blackwood, 2004). See Scicchitano, Johns, and Blackwood (2004) for a summary of the use of toll-free hotlines for reporting dishonesty, techniques for encouraging the use of the hotlines, and recommendations for companies that want to implement hotlines.9. Adopting and enforcing antitheft policies. Construction site workers who are tempted to steal are likely to be deterred by the threat of being fired. Offenders who are convicted of construction site crime should be fired and restricted from obtaining other positions in the industry. This message should be consistently reinforced: for example, contractors can require newly hired employees to sign a no-stealing contract; builders can speak out publicly on these issues at meetings or in the media; workers can be reminded of specific policies through company newsletters or via signs posted at the construction sites; and so forth.
The Casey city council in Victoria, Australia initiated a policy that mandated street lighting for construction areas. Prior to the initiative, street lighting was activated when the first occupants moved in, which meant that there was no street lighting during construction in unoccupied areas. The new policy authorized the activation of street lights at the time of the release of each subdivision.
Example of target hardening of construction equipment.
Credit: Rachel Boba and Roberto Santos
§ See Response Guide No. 4 on Video Surveillance of Public Places.12. Installing alarm systems. Alarm systems can be a cost-effective deterrent in high risk areas. There are a number of different alarms available, including wireless systems that can be adapted to the environment (for example, for use in onsite storage containers). Some wireless alarms can be installed at any stage of the construction, without the need for pre-wiring or other electrical work. Signs indicating that alarms are in use should be prominently displayed to reinforce the deterrent effect. However, care should be taken to ensure that false alarms do not drain police resources.§§
§§ See Problem-Specific Guide No. 5 on False Burglar Alarms.13. Using portable storage units. Properly secured storage units should be used for materials that are kept at construction sites overnight. These units should be equipped with wireless audible alarms and locks that prevent the use of bolt cutters.
Template of a sticker placed
on major appliances to increase the
perception of risk of being caught.
Credit: Port St. Lucie(FL) Police Department
§ See Response Guide No. 5 on Crime Prevention Publicity Campaigns.20. Disrupting stolen goods markets. Although there is little research on its effectiveness, requiring pawnshops to keep adequate records of the goods they purchase is regarded as a sensible measure geared toward disrupting stolen goods markets. In many jurisdictions, the recording of such information and its transmission to police has been automated. Strategies for disrupting the sale of stolen goods include conducting surveillance of stores suspected of dealing in stolen property, encouraging stores that buy used property to display signs stating that they are part of a program designed to prevent the sale of stolen goods, and enacting ordinances that require stores to establish the ownership of used goods before they are purchased.
This article was published along with other tailored responses in the community.
Credit: Fort Pierce (Florida) Tribune, September 2005
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