Similar to a neighborhood watch, Cloverdale is getting a business watch.
The idea to start a watch specifically for businesses and their owners came up as a response to specific concern from businesses about homeless-related issues. While that was what kicked off the creation of the watch, the department is hoping it will provide a communication channel for a variety of business issues.
As the methods of communication are still being worked out — a Facebook page and text thread were suggested at a meeting the Cloverdale Police Department held with business owners on April 23 — Sgt. Chris Parker said that the goal of the watch is to have a place for open communication between business owners and the police department, as well as a place where owners can inform each other of issues that they’re having.
“There are things that occur where it would help to get info and updates, such as power outages, homeless people camping behind businesses on private property, mentally-unstable people yelling or appearing threatening to pedestrians and customers,” said Kate Barrett, owner of Bolt Fabric + Home, who attended the department’s business watch meeting.
Whatever the communication channel may be, Parker described what his ideal view of a successful business watch would look like:
“An officer goes to a business, identifies someone passing bad checks or whatever … the officer can send that out to the business watch community via text (or something similar) and tell them, ‘Hey, look out for a male subject wearing black pants, black shirt and a mustache, passing fake bills,’” he said. “I think with that information they can be aware of the people coming into their business and look out for that sort of thing. On the flip side, they can report, ‘I saw there’s some blankets and stuff in the back of my (business), there may be someone sleeping there.’"
"Luckily, I have not experienced danger or fraud in my store," said Kelley Voss, owner of Voss Signature Vintage. "But if it were to happen, I would want to get the alert around quickly."
Voss recounted an experience at her store's former location wherein there was a domestic dispute nearby. She called the police, but said it "would have been great to let other businesses know that the police were on the way."
During the business watch’s first meeting, the department went over the results of a business survey that was sent out earlier this year, as well as had a presentation from a government worker about how to spot counterfeit money. The meeting was sparsely attended, possibly due to its mid-day meeting time, but Parker said that the department is hoping to hold an evening meeting later in the year.
The department got the idea from a business watch based on a similar yearly meeting that was held between businesses and police while he was working at the Cotati Police Department.
“In Cotati I always got with the businesses and the cabbies and we round-tabled and did a presentation about what was coming up in the year so we were always on the same page,” Parker said, mentioning that the main issue they were concerned with in Cotati was the “Cotati Crawl,” a weekly bar-hopping event downtown. “We wanted to do kinda the same thing here, so we tied that into the homeless concerns.”
As the kinks of the business watch get worked out — such as building a Facebook page or potentially setting up a text-based contact list — the department will be updating business owners who sign up as part of the business watch. Whatever the method of communication may be, Parker added that he doesn’t want it to become an outlet for off-topic conversation.
Business owners who are interested in being part of the watch and haven’t signed up to be included on the list can do so by emailing Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org. For those who sign up, the department has business watch stickers for business owner’s to include in the windows of their establishments.
This article was edited on May 11 to include quotes from Kelley Voss.