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There's Additional Ways to Stay Safe During a Pandemic



With a lot of vacant restaurants and retail outlets, now is the time to form a relationship with your local police department, says a security expert.

After someone threw a brick through the glass door at Birchwood Café and found the cash drawer empty, owner Tracy Singleton posted this message on Facebook: “Pro tip—restaurants doing curbside pickup do not have cash on hand during a pandemic.” 

Other local restaurants have experienced break ins or vandalism as well. So now, in addition to avoiding the human contact from taking cash, restaurateurs have one more reason to request payments electronically, 

With retail businesses sitting empty and restaurants just doing takeout orders for limited hours, it was only a matter of time for brick to meet glass. Sometimes it's not just money we need to keep an eye on, but also our property. We talked to Nathaniel Young, vice president of global operations for DECO, a security firm with offices in Minnesota, to find out some safety measures to set in place now that can become best practices later. DECO protects a variety of clients from U.S. embassies overseas to pig farmers in Iowa.

Young, a former police officer, suggests restaurant operators establish a positive relationship with their local police department prior to needing their services for a break in or other problem.

It's not as daunting as it sounds. “Go to the front desk and ask for the desk sergeant,” he says. “See what services they offer.”

Ask if they will do a security check, which will add your name to the list of properties that are checked during an officer’s shift. “It all depends on the precinct, the amount of crime (in the area),” and the time available, he says, but in most instances, law enforcement will appreciate a proactive approach.

Young said that when he was a police officer, he’d get a list of businesses at the start of his shift to check on while making the rounds. He would then do a drive-by and in some cases walk the perimeter. “As a business owner, tell them what is going to be normal,” he says. For instance, when does the kitchen staff lock up, which lights are left on, do you leave your liquor on display or put some away each night, etc.? “Let them know what the restaurant should look like so they’ll know when something is amiss,” he stresses.

Another proactive measure is to ask for a crime prevention officer to do a walk-through of your space and tell you what areas may need to be shored up.

One precaution he doesn’t advocate during this pandemic is covering windows, which tends to attract rather than ward off vandals. “Putting brown paper in the windows indicates a vacate building or one that is not being checked or paid attention to,” Young says.

As you hire new people, “always be wary, be sure the people you hire have done what they say they’ve done” and are who they say they are, he warns. Background checks aren't a waste of money. Unfortunately, theft most often is an inside job, he points out, and it isn’t always money, it’s utensils, liquor and food.

And when things are back to being somewhat normal and you start taking cash again, make regular deposits, especially after a busy shift. Vary the times you go to the bank. “Call the police department and ask for an escort to the bank,” he said, if you’re at all concerned about a larger-than-normal deposit.

Who knows, this could be the start of a beautiful relationship.

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