Clark County business owners gathered at Kiggins Theatre in Vancouver on Tuesday morning to discuss a topic that has been forefront on their minds: crime.
The Greater Vancouver Chamber event kicked off with a digital survey conducted by Chamber President and CEO John McDonagh. He asked attendees how many of them had experienced vandalism at their businesses. The overwhelming majority, 41, answered yes, while only 19 answered no.
The survey then asked whether those who’d been vandalized had reported it. Only 27 answered yes; 22 answered no.
“There’s been a tremendous amount of attention on what the contributing factors are to these situations that we find ourselves in,” McDonagh said to the crowd. “And knowing the many drivers creating why we’re here this morning, it’s time to learn what as business owners we can do to help mitigate those and prevent the incidents from happening in our businesses.”
The Chamber gathered two panels of speakers to offer suggestions, covering a range of topics including making insurance claims, reporting crimes — and preventing crime from happening in the first place.
Several speakers stressed that businesses should always report crimes. They said law enforcement agencies allocate resources based on that metric and agencies don’t have an accurate picture without businesses reporting them.
Other tips included installing concrete balusters in front of stores to prevent people from just driving into businesses and stealing merchandise. Some speakers suggested arranging stores and merchandise in a way to make stealing goods more difficult.
One topic of specific significance were limitations faced by local law enforcement agencies. The agencies in Clark County are all significantly understaffed, according to representatives from the Vancouver Police Department, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency. This is something they are all working to fix through extensive recruiting efforts.
On top of that, state law can make pursuing and punishing people who have stolen property difficult, they said. That is something that the Washington Organized Retail Crime Association is advocating to change.
Retail theft isn’t isolated to Vancouver or even the Portland metro area, according to several speakers. They said organized crime groups are targeting businesses across the entire Pacific Northwest.
“Unfortunately, the burden is quite often placed on the business owners and the constituents in the community,” said Rachel Codiroli, business development manager at Securitas. She encouraged the audience to evaluate their security measures and site and figure out how to make them proactive rather than reactive.