Thursday June 4, 2009
Facing layoffs, closings and increased overhead, the recent economic downturn has brought forth an additional problem for American businesses already struggling to manage the economic crisis - an increase in robberies and thefts. To curb business losses in these ailing economic times, Mayor Jerry Abramson, along with Louisville Metro Police Chief Robert White, held a press conference today to announce an innovative plan designed to facilitate an improved partnership between Louisville businesses and police. Joined by members of the Louisville Metro Police Foundation (LMPF), the United States Secret Service, Greater Louisville Inc. and the Better Business Bureau, Mayor Abramson highlighted this increasing problem facing businesses.
"Some experts believe nearly $1 trillion was stolen from businesses in 2008," Abramson said, citing the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners 2008 Annual Report as referenced in a February 2009 article from the Tampa Bay Business Journal. "Unfortunately, these losses are then passed on to the honest, hard-working consumer in the form of higher prices, making difficult financial times even tougher."
Louisville Metro Police Chief Robert White reiterated the Mayor's remarks citing a 2008 Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) report that stated that the economy/poverty/unemployment is the third leading contributor to violent crime in America. In 2009, the LMPD has seen an increase in bank and business robberies compared to the same time last year.
"The toll that thefts have on many businesses - especially small business - can be so great that many businesses cannot withstand the loss and are often forced to lay off employees or even close down," said White. "Whether it's employee fraud or shoplifting or robberies, in this economy these are losses that businesses just cannot afford. So the LMPD began researching ways to assist businesses in preventing thefts and have organized an initiative with the LMPF to facilitate a program aimed at education and enforcement."
The first part of the education initiative entails raising business and consumer awareness to the problem by prominently placing crime prevention posters in business workrooms and public retail areas. The posters were provided by Doe Anderson Advertising and contain messages for both employees and consumers designed to highlight the point that stealing from a business affects everyone - employees and consumers.
The second part of the education initiative will be a Business Summit to Prevent Business Theft, planned for sometime in the fall, designed to provide businesses with the information and resources to take the necessary steps within their organization to prevent further losses. The summit will provide experts to discuss such items as installing a system of checks and balances to prevent employee fraud, conducting background interviews, increasing security measures, etc.
To assist in facilitating these measures, the LMPF is developing plans for the Summit, as well as establishing a listserv for area businesses to provide enhanced, direct communication for businesses from the LMPD. It will be used to announce crime alerts as well as notify businesses of various crime prevention initiatives and tips.
Dennis Heishman, CEO of Old National Bank and a board member of the LMPF, stated "the LMPF was established to facilitate a partnership between the LMPD and the community. So the Foundation is excited about this ground-breaking initiative which will allow us to work with area businesses to increase their security consciousness to prevent thefts. It is our hope that all businesses within Louisville Metro will join us in this effort."
The LMPD hopes the enhanced partnership with businesses will assist in the second focus of their initiative - enforcement. "While businesses and employees wouldn't hesitate to report a robbery or burglary, they are often reluctant to report internal theft or fraud. It is important for businesses and employees to know they have the same option to anonymously report crime going on inside their organization just as if they were reporting a robbery or burglary," Chief White commented. "And, of course, that number is 574-LMPD."
To add strength to their investigative resources, the LMPD has teamed with the United States Secret Service whose Electronic Crimes Task Force aids local law enforcement with advanced technology and investigative tools. Additionally, the investigators have the option of prosecuting theft cases federally which carries mandatory minimum sentences for cases involving fraud. Special Agent in Charge for Kentucky, Paul Johnson stated, "internal losses from businesses is a problem we are seeing increase nationally and our Electronic Crimes Task Force was designed to work with local law enforcement to facilitate their investigative and prosecutorial needs. It is our hope that potential thieves will be deterred by the threat of these increased investigative measures and mandatory sentences."
To get a poster for businesses or to join the LMPF listserv for businesses, visit the LMPD website (www.louisvilleky.gov/MetroPolice) and click on the Prevent Business Theft link or register by calling 574-LMPD.