On the Frontlines: How State and Local Governments Battle Crime and Terrorism. (Public-Private Liaison)

Article excerpt

Public-private partnerships for business crime prevention in the United States have traditionally functioned on the local level. After all, who better to advise businesses on crime risk than police who patrol their very neighborhoods? Broader anticrime efforts have tended to come from non-governmental crime prevention associations. State crime prevention agencies, by contrast, have typically served as data clearinghouses or as conduits for grant dollars.

A few states have bucked that trend in recent years, using state-level programs to ensure a consistent degree of training in business crime prevention throughout the state, with localities tailoring the particulars to their unique circumstances. The events of September u, which have led many states to form homeland security offices, have furthered this trend toward state coordination of law enforcement cooperation with businesses, with the emphasis now on the terrorist threat as much as on the more traditional concerns of crime and workplace violence prevention. The following overview looks at how some of these state efforts are working.

Traditional crime prevention. Of the two dozen or so states studied for this article, two stood out as having the most comprehensive traditional crime prevention programs: Florida and Virginia.

Florida. For several years, the Bureau of Criminal Justice Programs under Florida's Office of the Attorney General has trained crime prevention officers in local police and sheriff's departments with courses on such topics as crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), workplace violence, general business crime prevention, and liability Courses range from 8 to 40 hours, and crime prevention officers must recertify every three years.

The officers who receive that training use their knowledge to help local businesses by, for example, performing site surveys that show companies whether they could reduce crime with better lighting or alarms and how they might apply CPTED to their property.

The September 11 attacks have not translated into increased calls for site surveys in all Florida cities, however. "I don't think we've had a tremendous volume here," says Neil Scully, a deputy for the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office who performs about three site surveys per week. "I expected more."

In recent years, according to Research and Training Specialist Ed Isbell, who works for the Florida Crime Prevention Training Institute, Florida Attorney General's Office, such assessments have become much more comprehensive. "These surveys used to take an hour," he says. "Now they can take days or weeks." That's because the surveys go beyond the traditional physical concerns and address issues such as hiring and firing practices, liability, and workplace violence. Since 9-11, businesses have also increasingly called for tips on mail handling, limiting anthrax exposure, and setting up mailrooms, Isbell says.

The intensity of the surveys has increased in terms of scope, according to Scully. Yet the more extensive review doesn't necessarily translate into action. Of the surveyed businesses that Scully has followed up on, he says, "They always implement a portion, hut not all" of the measures, usually due to budget restrictions.

"We have not had a deluge of requests," echoes Corporal Marian Hultgreen of the Orange County Sheriffs Office. But many of the larger businesses in Orange County have internal security departments to handle these issues, says Hultgreen. Because businesses are handling the traditional security concerns, local officials have shifted more of their attention to homeland security duties--crime prevention officers have even been retitled "homeland protection specialists." Hultgreen says that officers have begun giving homeland security presentations to civic groups and businesses, addressing topics such as general emergency awareness and mail-opening procedures. …