Main Street South Orange (MSSO) has announced the creation of the South Orange Business Watch program, their latest safety initiative for businesses in town. MSSO is partnering with the South Orange Police Department (SOPD) and the South Orange Neighborhood Watch to implement the program.
The new program is designed to allow business owners to quickly inform and receive information whenever a safety breach happens in the business district. The purpose of the program is to have merchant-to-merchant communication when there is a safety concern.
The idea for Business Watch started to be discussed following the December 2011 robbery at Kitchen a la Mode. Four people in thick white robes came into the store and stole large items, such as an All-Clad roasting pan with a rack for a turkey and lifting forks, while the store’s staff was distracted.
Following the robbery, members of MSSO met with SOPD Chief James Chelel and Neighborhood Watch coordinator Janine Buckner to see how they could bring the successful elements of the Neighborhood Watch to a similar program for businesses.
Businesses that opt in can elect to receive text messages or e-mails whenever there is a reason to be concerned about a safety issue downtown. When a safety breach happens, participating businesses will first call 9-1-1 and then contact Ross Fields, co-owner of Robyn Ross and the coordinator of Business Watch, who will then contact the businesses to alert them.
“The primary goal of this is to disseminate information merchant-to-merchant whenever something happens,” said MSSO Executive Director Carole Anzalone-Newman. “The thing we want to stress…is that this does not replace calling 9-1-1. If you have any kind of emergency or issue, you need to call 9-1-1.”
Anzalone-Newman said that businesses will be “educated” in how to use the service. Following a call to the SOPD, it’s up to Fields to take the information and decide what and how the business community needs to be alerted. However, Anzalone-Newman and Fields stressed that businesses should not try to take crimes into their own hands.
“We don’t want people to become reactionary because of this, it’s supposed to be an aid to keep people safe,” said Anzalone-Newman. “Chief Chelel has done a good job in telling the businesses ‘if you’re uncomfortable in any way, call.’”
According to Anzalone-Newman, the system may be used either for emergency information or other important information relevant to the business community. She stressed that “only messages that come from SOPD on crime related issues can be considered confirmed information.”
In an e-mail to businesses, Buckner explained the process of Neighborhood Watch and how Business Watch could be similar. Residents who have concerns contact their director, who contacts Buckner and then she contacts the SOPD. Once she has a response from the SOPD, the information goes back down the line. She also stressed that if businesses wondered whether an issue is important enough to call the police, then they should call.
“Whether in the Neighborhood Watch or Business Watch, ‘Watch members’ partner with the South Orange Police Department to address community members’ concerns,” wrote Buckner. “In a nutshell, we encourage folks to call concerns into the police and support the idea that being vigilant about personal and property security is an important priority. Increasing awareness and promotion of safety is our goal, as is promoting unhindered communications between residents/businesses and law enforcement”
Businesses with more questions or wanting to fill out a form to participate should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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