Shop owners in Town and Country can join the “Biz Alert Program,” which is like a neighborhood watch for businesses. The program is an expanded version of a “Church Alert” system the has been running since 2007. More than 900 businesses belong to the program.
The program is simple. Concerned business owners sign up for email alerts sent out by the police department. The alerts notify them of any criminal activity affecting businesses, in the hope that they will call 911 if they see a criminals in or around their stores.
The alerts might inform businesses of recent robberies, shoplifting or vandalism. They can also pass on the descriptions of con artists trying to pass bad checks or counterfeit money.
Police officials stress that Biz Alert participants should only observe and contact police if they see something suspicious. They should never try to apprehend a criminal on their own. Shop owners are encouraged to be a good witness and write down a description of the spotted criminal and get a license plate number of the criminal's vehicle if possible.
Captain Gary Hoelzer said the alert system works and has helped them catch criminals. In June, Town and Country police arrested a thief who was suspected of stealing liquor from several retail stores.
“He was arrested after a brief foot pursuit by store personnel and a Town and Country police officer in the Clayton and Woods Mill area,” Hoelzer said.
Manchester does not have an email alert system, but does have a resource officer dedicated to assisting area businesses. Officer Meredith Lebbing is Manchester’s first business resource officer, and has been watching over businesses for about a year.
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“We don’t send emails, but I keep contact with businesses,” Lebbing said. She patrols Manchester and checks on shop owners to share information on criminal activities the department knows about. She also meets with store’s loss prevention teams to keep businesses updated on known criminals. She said that shoplifting small electronics and identity theft are up these days.
She is also the officer who responds to calls regarding shoplifting, robberies or credit card fraud. She said she can respond more quickly to business-related crime than other officers who are on patrol.
Lebbing said that if shop owners see something suspicious, they should call 911.
“People will case stores. If you get that uneasy feeling, please call us,” she said.
For more information on Town and Country’s Biz Alert, contact Police Officer Kent Berry at firstname.lastname@example.org. Manchester’s business resource officer can be contacted through the police department at 636-227-1410, or by dialing 911 in case of a crime.
On the Horizon:
- Coffee and Handshakes Business-Networking Before Hours. A Yellow-Tie St. Louis event hosted by Whiz-Tech Technology Café from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Tuesday. Open to the public and free.
- Building an Organization that Makes St. Louis Proud! Hosted by the National Association of Women Business Owners, from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm Aug. 17 at the Westborough Country Club, the event is $35 for members and $45 for guests. Guest speaker is Kevin Demoff of the St. Louis Rams.
- Systematic Continuous Improvement. This seminar is presented by the Better Business Bureau from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Aug. 18 at the BBB office in St. Louis. Free to employees of accredited businesses.