Crime Prevention: Law Enforcement's Role in Security

In effect a doorway to your local police agency, a Crime Prevention Officer can provide many services and information.

IN the post "9/11" era, many businesses have recognized the need for improved security and disaster response. The threats of anthrax, car bombs, bioterrorism, and numerous other hazards have forced business managers to consider the possible risks to their organizations.

Because of budget constraints or other various reasons, many manufacturing and industrial companies have mixed security responsibilities in with the duties of their Environmental Safety Officers, HR Directors, or Facilities Managers or have distributed security duties among numerous personnel, making adequate security assessment difficult.

Security programs in many of these organizations have thus become a loose framework of hardware pieced together as a reaction to problems that have already occurred--for example, installing a burglar alarm after a burglary. A Safety and Security program should be established as a result of a deliberate security plan, not as an accident.

As companies are deciding how to address their security needs and develop a security plan, the obvious question will arise: Whom do we call for help? Before hiring a security consultant, or to work in partnership with a hired security consultant, contact your local police department's Crime Prevention Police Officer.

More Than a Dog Handler
Today's law enforcement Crime Prevention Officer (CPO) is often mistakenly associated with being just the person wearing a "McGruff" dog suit or the officer who talks to the local neighborhood watch group. While those activities usually are a small part of their duties, crime prevention as a profession encompasses a larger circle of knowledge.

Crime Prevention Officers are highly experienced and well-trained law enforcement professionals who recognize the value of engaging and educating the community in crime prevention initiatives. Crime Prevention Officers usually are recruited from seasoned, veteran police officers. These officers typically have had years of experience responding to the crimes that are most likely to occur in the local work environments, including but not limited to burglaries, identification fraud, theft, and robberies. A veteran police officer who has investigated numerous crimes will have recognized common patterns among these crimes and therefore will have identified and applied various techniques to prevent them.

To stay abreast of new and innovative crime prevention techniques, CPOs regularly attend training. Many CPOs are trained and certified through their state agencies or organizations in crime prevention. In Colorado, for example, to become certified in basic crime prevention requires an officer to study numerous topics and complete a certification examination. Subjects covered during the course include Community Policing, Neighborhood Watch, Security Surveys, Workplace Violence, Identity Theft, Retail Security, Computer Safety, Crime Free Multi-Housing, Juvenile Crimes, security hardware, and information on many other topics.

At the present time there is no national standard for Crime Prevention Certification, so training standards vary from state to state. In addition to obtaining a basic certification, your community's CPO may have received added training in Crime Prevention through Environmental Design, Community Facilitation, Physical Security Design, and Problem Oriented Policing.

In an effort to reach out to the community, many CPOs maintain memberships with their state crime prevention associations or professional organizations such as the American Society of Industrial Security. They meet with various community groups. A professional CPO strives to serve the community as a knowledgeable law enforcement officer and educator of security and safety principles.

Services and Training Offered by CPOs
Crime Prevention Officers can provide many services to their local businesses and may be able to provide some services and information not available from a security consultant. Consider your CPO as a doorway to your local police agency.

The CPO who has worked in your community can provide a realistic idea of which crime risks actually exist in the neighborhood around your business. With this valuable crime data in hand, the CPO can conduct a security assessment of your facility that is focused toward the crimes known to occur in your area. Some CPOs may be able to evaluate your company's emergency response policies and procedures. After reviewing your policies, the officer may identify shortfalls in your emergency plan and educate your company on how to improve those policies. For example, a CPO will have valuable insight as to how his or her department would respond to specific emergencies such as a bomb threat. By educating your company's emergency response team about how his agency responds to various emergencies, he or she helps your company tailor your own emergency response plans to parallel and complement the expected police response.

In addition to emergency response planning, the CPO can present your employees with valuable training experiences. The officer can provide your company with educational presentations on workplace violence, identification theft and fraud, how to identify a clandestine drug lab, or any number of other topics that can be tailored to your business needs. The CPO acts as your liaison, assisting your company to answer a myriad of questions. If the CPO does not know or have the information you need, he will know where to find it.

Pre-Construction Involvement
Companies who are expanding or building new facilities should consult with their local CPO prior to construction. Many CPOs receive training on evaluating blueprints or development plans for security and crime prevention initiatives.

The City of Colorado Springs requires all proposed development plans to be approved by certified CPOs. If the local CPO identifies a problem, she can work with the developer, business owner, or the city planning office to mitigate potential risks. The city does not currently require interior floor plans to be reviewed; however, some businesses are taking a proactive crime prevention approach and seeking assistance and recommendations before beginning construction.

Business managers should remember that the CPO is not intended to replace a security consultant. The CPO serves the entire community equally, large businesses and small; therefore, the officer will not have as much time to spend evaluating your company as would a paid consultant. Because Crime Prevention Officers work for government agencies, they should not make recommendations for specific equipment vendors, as a consultant could.

The CPO's job is to provide your business with a basic road map to identify some of your business's risk and provide basic guidelines to improve the overall security of the facility and the safety of the employees. In order to target-harden your facility, the security consultant should provide an in depth analysis of your business's risk and make very exact recommendations, including specific equipment, vendors, and contractors in order to mitigate the identified risks. Your company can locate a qualified security consultant by contacting organizations such as the American Society for Industrial Security International (www.asisonline.org) or the International Association of Professional Security Consultants (www.iapsc.org).

A Team Effort
In the difficult post "9/11" economy the CPO can be one of the most cost effective methods of reviewing your company's basic security and safety needs. Most police agencies offer the assistance of their officers as a free service to enhance their own Community Policing outreach. But remember, each jurisdiction will dictate the duties and training of your local CPO, so not all services may be available in your area. Check with your local police department for specific services, schedules, and possible fees.

Analyzing and restructuring your security and disaster response plans is truly a team effort. The CPO can work in concert with your security team members to provide you with valuable crime prevention and emergency response education. Your police department's Crime Prevention Officer is an extremely important part of your team who should not be forgotten.

This article originally appeared in the July 2003 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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