Business Watch website to help in loss prevention

In an effort to help prevent crimes like shoplifting, counterfeiting and fraud, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office is soliciting for members on its new Business Watch website.

Capt. Aleck Beeman said the site is open to law enforcement agencies and retail businesses in and around the Interstate 81 corridor through a log-in. He said the site will not be open to the public for reasons of security and privacy. He posited the example of posted security camera footage that could cause undue suspicion.

“There’s a fine line between the privacy part and accuracy,” he said.

Businesses and law enforcement will be able to post about warnings and trends on the site, and alerts will be sent out through the system via email. Beeman said the Sheriff’s Office has already signed on a number of large retail stores and will be checking the legitimacy of lesser-known small businesses to register them in as well.

Geographically, Business Watch isn’t putting a limit on prospective sign-ups, with some members coming from Clarke and Warren counties and Martinsburg, West Virginia. Beeman said law enforcement agencies in other states have already signed on, while other Virginia agencies have expressed interest in setting up their own sites.

“We don’t want to cut them off too close because a lot of our stuff goes off that way or comes down from them,” he said.

Beeman said Frederick County’s Information Technology department had been writing and fine-tuning the program with trial periods since last fall, so some members have been in the system for as long as six months.

Earlier this month, Frederick County sheriff’s deputies charged two men from Brooklyn, New York, with possession of fraudulent credit cards after trying to buy cigarettes with them.

A clerk at the Handy Mart on Martinsburg Pike called police after having seen a company-distributed email and noticing that one man who entered the store “matched the description in the email,” according to a statement from the Sheriff’s Office.

In that instance, the clerk had seen a red flag from Handy Mart that helped to prevent fraud and led to the two men’s arrests. But Beeman said that the Sheriff’s Office wants to create a network that can send out such warnings to all businesses in the area.

“They did their own because [the men] started at the Handy Marts,” he said. “The problem is if they went to a 7-Eleven, they would’ve never known.”

The Winchester Police Department already holds monthly intel meetings on loss prevention for area law enforcement and businesses, but Beeman said the site will be convenient and allow for immediate access to new tips.

“I was trying to think of what could be better for the businesses, how we could reach out to them and not take up as much of their time and keep them informed,” he said.

Beeman said several more crimes can occur within the timespan it takes to file a police report, so the speed of disseminating information was another motivating factor for the site.

“We’re trying to use the Internet, the age of Internet to our advantage,” he said.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com