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Top cop talks crime, commerce with Chamber

Crime and commerce was the subject May 25 as Perhams police chief spoke to a roomful of shopkeepers and managers. A flurry of shoplifting and several business break-ins in both Perham and New York Mills prompted a meeting with the Perham Area Cha...

Crime and commerce was the subject May 25 as Perhams police chief spoke to a roomful of shopkeepers and managers.

A flurry of shoplifting and several business break-ins in both Perham and New York Mills prompted a meeting with the Perham Area Chamber of Commerce Retail Committee, organized by chairman Steve Richter. Special guest was Police Chief Brian Nelson.

Lighting, security, alarm systems and attentiveness are among the key preventative burglary and shoplifting measures business owners need to consider.

Prevention is the best, said Nelson. Shoplifters and burglars hate the lights, hate the security cameras...when they look at the store and see the preventative measures, they hopefully then move on.

Its a fine line, added Nelson. You dont want turn your store into Alcatraz, with bars on the windows and glaring lights.

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Security equipment and video technology has improved immensely, said Nelson, and it is also becoming more affordable in price. Fleet Farm is an example of high tech shoplifting prevention, noted Nelson. Shoppers are on camera virtually from the time they park in the lot to the time they leave the store.

One law enforcement professional said that, if I owned a store, Id put the safe in the front display window, with a spotlight on it, said Nelson. Burglars always go for the darkest room, furthest back in the corner--thats the first play the burglar will go.

Burglaries are among the hardest cases to solve, Nelson acknowledged, making prevention and security all the more important.

Watch for suspicious movements when on lookout for shoplifters

Nelson said that shopkeepers should trust their instincts...you know the suspicious movements that shoplifters make.

If you approach them, and they are overly indignant, you are usually right in being suspicious, said Nelson.

Retailers shouldnt fear a lawsuit if they falsely accuse someone of shoplifting. Most courts are sympathetic to businesses, said Nelson.

If you are apologetic, most people will understand, said Nelson.

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Does Chief Nelson accept the notion that, for some, shoplifting is a mental disorder--kleptomania?

I do believe there is truth to that, said Nelson, noting that he has seen cases where prominent individuals are convicted of shoplifting. Some of these people are caught again and again.

I dont think Ive ever charged a shoplifter that didnt have the money to pay for the the stolen item in their pocket, said Nelson.

Bad checks discussed

Perham Chamber members also asked the police chief about worthless checks. He encouraged retailers to request identification for any check.

If they havent been to your house for Thanksgiving dinner, ask for an ID, said Nelson. He recognizes that retailers dont want to offend their customers but one way to soften the blow is to simply blame the accountant or blame the police chief when explaining the ID policy.

I will be glad when checks are obsolete. Were almost there now, with debit cards and credit cards, said Nelson.

Police to take proactive stance

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As for the police department, Nelson said his officers will be taking proactive measures in preventing burglaries and theft.

Officers and police reservists will be doing more frequent stops at businesses, more checking for unlocked doors, more thorough inspections around entrances, and more foot patrol.

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