The Police Chief, the Professional Voice of Law Enforcement
Advanced Search
September 2016HomeSite MapContact UsFAQsSubscribe/Renew/UpdateIACP

Current Issue
Search Archives
Web-Only Articles
About Police Chief
Law Enforcement Jobs
buyers Your Oppinion

Back to Archives | Back to January 2010 Contents 

A Systematic Process for Creating Business Watch Programs in Private Organizations

By Philip S. Deming, Certified Protection Professional, Certified Fraud Examiner, SPHR Senior Professional in Human Resources, Grant Consultant on behalf of the ASIS Foundation, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania

any police departments have developed successful Business Watch programs as part of their crime prevention community outreach initiatives. These Business Watch programs, like neighborhood watch programs, provide local businesses and police an opportunity to form community partnerships. The Business Watch programs focus on reducing crime and fostering a working relationship between law enforcement and businesses in the community. In addition, there have been other benefits garnered by law enforcement agencies in these efforts. They include the following:

  • A vehicle to learn about crimes and trends that have occurred in the community that were not being reported to the police

  • A forum where police can encourage businesses to be vigilant in observing and reporting crime and suspicious activities

  • An opportunity to educate businesses and their employees on managing emergencies, crime prevention techniques, and serving as good witnesses

  • A forum to share information concerning crime prevention methods, concepts, technology, and expertise

  • A resource for funding crime prevention efforts in the community

  • A source for law enforcement when a business has special-topic expertise and technology

  • A recruitment opportunity for qualified candidates for the police department

While these Business Watch programs have created tangible value, the programs tend to focus on retail and hospitality businesses, which are often victims of typical criminal activity such as shoplifting, retail theft, and check fraud. Thus, police agencies can miss a significant opportunity to forge partnerships with other businesses that are victims of a different type of crime, such as identity theft, intellectual property theft, and embezzlement.

Business Watch Programs Awareness

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded a grant to the ASIS Foundation to establish Business Watch programs using the more than 37,000 private security professionals who are members of ASIS International. The ASIS Foundation was established in 1967 to improve the body of knowledge for private security and is an affiliate to ASIS International, the world’s largest association of security managers. Under this grant, the ASIS Foundation focused its efforts on developing educational and informational materials on organizing a Business Watch program and business crime prevention techniques. All the materials produced are freely available to ASIS members, law enforcement, and the general public to facilitate the development and participation in Business Watch programs. The emphasis has been on implementing such programs in midsize to large organizations (that is, organizations with more than 500 employees) that employ professional security resources.

The ASIS Foundation began with a survey to benchmark current levels of awareness. The national survey of ASIS membership indicated that 58.5 percent were aware of Business Watch programs. Of these respondents, 17.4 percent indicated that their organization participated in a Business Watch program. Moreover, there was recognition of the benefits to their organization in implementing a Business Watch program as a cost–effective crime prevention effort along with other strategic values (such as mitigating foreseeable risk in their workplace).

This survey identifies a perplexing challenge. Many of the responding security professionals, some of whom had previously been in law enforcement, found it a challenge to create a partnership with police departments because of the size of their business and because they did not have the same crime prevention needs as a retail or hospitality business. Furthermore, these security professionals required a valid business case to present to senior management in order to undertake a Business Watch program for their organization.

With this understanding, the ASIS Foundation developed the Business Watch: Strategic Guidelines. These guidelines articulate a six-step process to create a successful Business Watch program. The process is targeted primarily to aid security professionals, but law enforcement agencies can benefit as well from this information. The document provides a tool for police officers to present to prospective organizations that desire to make their workplace communities safer.

Six Steps to a Successful Business Watch Program

The six-step process outlines a number of key elements to consider when embarking on a Business Watch program. They include securing senior management support (both with the participating organization and the police agency); developing a clear vision for the program and focus for the crime prevention efforts; collaborating with internal stakeholders (employees) and external resources (the police agency); creating partnerships with private and public organizations; empowering others to participate and act; learning; and continuing to seek new ideas for crime prevention. Following is a redacted version of the six-step process.

1. Diagnose the Environment
A business case for a Business Watch program in the workplace should be developed. It should include qualitative data to serve as a basis for investing time, resources, and funds. This is presented to the organization’s management for approval and support. These same data can be used to develop crime prevention strategies and methods to suit the organization’s requirements and needs, including changing employees’ view of their role in crime prevention.

An important first step is to conduct a risk assessment. This task assesses security-related risks of internal and external threats to an organization, employees, invitees, and assets. A search for other data also should be made to discover and understand the challenges that the organization faces and the scope of need.

Examples of data to be analyzed are as follows:

  • The community and law enforcement services available

  • Crime statistics (such as the type and frequency of reported crimes in the community, the area, or in the organization)

  • Security incidences reported to the organization

  • Security assets (including personnel, equipment, and protection systems)

  • Nature of the organization (such as manufacturing, health care, financial services, energy, institutions of higher learning)

  • Hours of operation and access to the organization’s property, employees, and assets

  • Flow and volume of pedestrian and vehicular traffic in and out of the property

  • Environmental factors (such as the weather, the tendency of the site to attract crime, and competition in the marketplace)

  • Economic conditions affecting the organization

  • Perception of the organization in the community

  • Employee and labor changes (such as layoffs, increased hiring, work stoppages, and labor unrest)

  • Other factors that could affect the organization

Systematic analysis follows data collection. The data should offer critical information about the challenges, the organizational characteristics for program implementation, the types of risks that adversely affect an organization, and the resources at its disposal.

2. Create a Vision
A vision for the program focuses efforts to attain the desired goal. Organizations are complex social systems constantly interacting with challenges and risks. To create a vision for the program, a sense of achieving a real impact on crime in the workplace must be imagined. The vision should be realistic to affect the necessary changes and create value for the program.

As an example, a large waste and environmental services corporation initiated a Business Watch program in which the company’s drivers became its eyes and ears, reporting suspicious or unusual activities to local law enforcement. The company’s efforts demonstrated its commitment to the health and safety of the communities where this company operates.

When creating a vision, you need to consider the following elements:

  • Have a mission (that is, what do you hope or want to accomplish)

  • Identify valued outcomes (such as create awareness, decrease the frequency of crime incidences at the workplace or on employees)

  • Have a benchmark so that you can measure the progress, whether it is program recognition in the workplace or a tangible impact on crime

Once the vision for a program has been created and thoughtfully communicated, it allows employees to understand the concepts and to participate in acting on that vision. Using the example cited, the trash truck drivers understood the concept of observing and reporting. In the context of their Business Watch program, they were now empowered to become involved—to realize their company’s vision.

3. Develop Goals
The leadership for a Business Watch program has to recognize when setting a direction that there are at least three elements to consider:

  • Interpreting and having a clear understanding of the data collected

  • Focusing on current and future goals

  • Moving the vision into action

Goals are valuable because they articulate what people need to know. This information creates a great sense of need and, importantly, a sense of urgency. People have to see that the goals are viable and meaningful (to them). This all builds value for stakeholder involvement.

4. Form Working Partnerships and Alliances
The best formula for mitigating most crimes in the workplace is education and cooperation. With the collaboration between stakeholders and external resources (such as law enforcement, professional associations, and other business organizations), improved relationships build an organization’s arsenal for preventing, detecting, and investigating crime as well as supporting law enforcement efforts in the community. Resources with special expertise concerning certain crimes and educating employees and others can diminish the risk exposure to the organization and its people. Cultivating working relationships can contribute real value to the Business Watch program.

To maximize these relationships, efforts should be undertaken to identify key resources across the organization that could support the program by virtue of their organizational position and talent. For example, the criteria used to select persons to be considered key resources are as follows:

  • Position within the organization

  • Expertise or talent

  • Access to information

  • Control of assets (such as funding, equipment, and people)

  • Influencers in the organization—people who may not have a strategic position in the organization but who can, nevertheless, influence the decision-making process

Once these key resources are identified, recruit their support and share the vision for this unique outreach campaign. These individuals should share the following attributes:

  • A common vision for this program

  • A respect for the direction of the program

  • A willingness to work with the security department

  • A commitment of time, energy, or resources

Continuing to build a coalition of support throughout the organization will establish a clear understanding of the intentions of a Business Watch program. This is a continuous process, as illustrated in Figure 1.

Identifying organizations that can be a strategic partner or alliance for the program based on the program emphasis is important for success. For example, if the program is focused on community crimes that affect the local workplace (such as assaults in the parking lot, auto thefts, panhandling, and workplace violence) or general crime prevention, the types of organizations to contact would be local law enforcement agencies, community neighborhood watch programs, and the local chamber of commerce. However, if the program is designed to mitigate technology-related crimes (such as financial wire fraud, identity theft, theft of intellectual property) or multijurisdictional crime prevention, the types of organizations to be contacted would include the ones listed above but also may include federal and state law enforcement agencies as well as other governmental agencies, industry associations, and academic institutions.

Many law enforcement agencies have Business Watch–type programs. Some agencies focus on specific crimes (such as shoplifting, check fraud, burglary) while other agencies may have an emphasis on global crime prevention. An initial step should be to consult with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to determine if they have programs and which program best suits the organizational needs.

When developing the partnership with an external resource, the process should be structured to create a long-lasting collaborative relationship. To set the stage, undertake the following:

  • Contact those parties who are essential to the program (such as senior law enforcement officials and other security professionals)

  • Communicate the intended vision for the program, the desired commitment from that external resource (in terms of costs, time, and energy), and why that resource should participate

  • Develop and agree on the level of cooperation, inclusive of the resources (such as funding, providing office space to the assigned law enforcement officer, and offering training to employees and to law enforcement personnel)

5. Design a System for Aligning the Resources
Part I – External Resources Once working relationships have been established with the partners and alliances, a system for aligning these resources is needed. This requires implementation of various methods of communication (such as monthly meetings, e-mails, and networking sessions) to facilitate discussions of ideas and participation in structured activities (such as attending company meetings with key internal resources). The process, which links actions to behavioral change, should allow for opportunities to do the following:

  • Respond to specific incidences and/or concerns

  • Reinvigorate resources to develop new ways of addressing crime challenges

  • Reinforce the program’s relevancy as a means for crime prevention

  • Create value

  • Continue building a coalition and support

A key objective with the external resources is to develop a collaborative marketing plan, including any promotion efforts, for the Business Watch program. The planning discussion should cover the following:

  • Setting the marketing goals (that is, think in terms of the results and vision for the program)

  • Selecting the best strategy to communicate the program’s message, including cooperation with the external resources and the company’s role and the vision for the program

  • Developing program branding

  • Identifying marketing tactics (such as brochures, videos, and webcasts)

  • Developing a schedule with resources (financial and human), deliverables, and milestones

  • Establishing controls for vetting the content of all marketing materials and obtaining the agreement of all parties on the content and the method of dissemination

Part II – Internal Resources Information is the lifeblood of any successful program. So it is important to create opportunities to seek out information (What is really going on?) from the employees and to convey information (What are our needs for this program?) to the employees. The understanding of two-way communication forms the foundation for building program credibility in the workplace. Employees need to be informed of the intentions for this program, its value, and their individual roles, so they trust the process and become active participants.

There are four key questions that the program leadership must answer when communicating with the employees about Business Watch. The response should be clear and concise.

Once employees understand the message, they become the next sources of information about the program, suppliers of ideas for the program, and reporters of suspicious activities or crime.

After completing the message (which will have to be continually communicated), the partners and alliances in the program can be introduced to the employees. This interaction will have multiple degrees of influence (such as the program’s message will be validated by the outsiders’ participation, there will be an atmosphere of confidence and trust, the program supporters will be assured that they have backed a valuable program, and this, in turn, will favorably influence others to participate in the future).

6. Institutionalize the Program
The key to program longevity is the empowerment of others in the organization to act on the vision, to continue to strive to achieve the articulated program’s goals, and to receive continuous feedback on the program’s progress. To develop program longevity requires a tactical plan (day-to-day task planning) and a strategic plan (long-term planning) to direct the crime prevention efforts. These plans should have a meaningful connection between the stakeholders, the partners, and the alliances in terms of mitigating crime. A recognition and reward system for those contributing to the program will reinforce desired behaviors. A final element in the behavioral chain is succession planning, having the right people to continue the program’s vision.

While the Business Watch: Strategic Guidelines is not all inclusive, it provides an organizational, systematic approach for creating Business Watch programs for private organizations. Police agencies can share this process with those interested businesses that desire to create a valuable community partnership in crime prevention. ■



From The Police Chief, vol. LXXVII, no. 1, January 2010. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

The official publication of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
The online version of the Police Chief Magazine is possible through a grant from the IACP Foundation. To learn more about the IACP Foundation, click here.

All contents Copyright © 2003 - International Association of Chiefs of Police. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright and Trademark Notice | Member and Non-Member Supplied Information | Links Policy

44 Canal Center Plaza, Suite 200, Alexandria, VA USA 22314 phone: 703.836.6767 or 1.800.THE IACP fax: 703.836.4543

Created by Matrix Group International, Inc.®