On Patrol In The Plaza / Business Complex

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While I am on security patrol there are several things I am looking for. In working security, our Post Orders for each site are tailored to the contract needs of the representing property managers / owners. Consequently, there can be drastic differences in what one client needs versus another. However, in patrolling for crime and suspicious activity, several things will remain the same. The following list is an extension of the previous Suspicious Activity note and represents some of the things not only security and Law Enforcement look for, but that regular citizens can watch out for as well. The only major difference is that people as citizens must remember, DO NOT CONFRONT THE SITUATION. The best thing you can do is to observe the incident and call the police. The only time I have seen citizens become involved in an incident is when someone else’s life is in danger, such as a traffic accident. Do not put yourselves at risk.

The patrol scenarios encountered are going to be from a perspective of patrolling a shopping plaza / business. Later notes will address patrolling a living situation such as an apartment complex. These are events you can look for while you are going about your day at work or at home. Times such as a break or walking your dog are perfect in looking for suspicious activity.
Are there vehicles violating the rules of the property / law?
Are vehicles parked in the fire lane, in handicapped parking, or in violation of property rules? One of the most common plaza rules is no overnight parking. This helps to keep strange vehicles away from the property during non-business hours.

Are any of the vehicles in the area occupied?
Are vehicles parked by themselves, do they have a lot of items piled up in them, are the headrests not visible due to the seat being leaned back, have people been sitting in their car for a long period of time? At night I can usually tell immediately upon pulling into a parking lot which vehicles are occupied without having to see anyone.

Do people or vehicles leave the area as I drive in?
This is an immediate red flag and I will follow them to get a description and a license number. After they have departed the property, I go back and investigate the area they were hanging out. If anything is left behind, it is usually alcohol or drug paraphernalia. If you find drug paraphernalia, you can call the police to dispose of it.

Are people hanging out by businesses after hours?
These people can be dangerous to approach depending on the situation. The first thing I establish is if they work or live there. If they don’t, I advise them to leave. Once a plaza is on non-business hours, people can be asked to leave. If there is any resistance, I call the police.

Are there maintenance problems?
Broken sprinklers waste a lot of water, especially since we have been asked to conserve our local resources. If there are lights out, I check the area. Often people or a vehicle will sneak in. Report dark spots, wasted water, and other maintenance problems to your property management.

Are the vehicles secure?
It is surprising how many people will leave their car door or trunk open. If found, I will look for signs of tampering, vandalism, or theft. If there is glass on the ground, or if the all the compartments inside are open and appear to have been rifled through, I will call the police for a vehicle burglary.

Are building doors secure?
People even forget to close and lock their business doors. If found, I will call the police to sweep the inside in case of a crime in progress or medical emergency.

Is anyone sleeping in their vehicle?
Someone sleeping in their vehicle could be drunk or having a medical emergency. We have found people passed out during the day due to heat exhaustion, and at night I have called in multiple DUI arrests for people passed out in their vehicles with the engine running.

Is there fresh graffiti?
See the note about “Graffiti Control” for resources. If the graffiti is extensive enough, I will get a police report number for vandalism to turn into the property management.

Are there groups of people hanging out?
Most of the time this is just people hanging out, but I always like to check. People gathering in a parking lot could mean an accident, fight, or medical emergency. One time I drove up on a group of people in a parking lot, and there was a woman on the ground in the middle of a seizure. They had rolled her on her side so she wouldn’t choke on her vomit, and had called for an ambulance.

Are there any visible safety hazards?
Especially look around after a high wind. The wind can wreck havoc on trees and old buildings. I will look for loose overhanging material and fallen trees / branches. Several times I have found vehicles smashed by a large tree.

Are people hanging out by dumpsters?
Normally people dumpster diving are just looking for recyclables, but it could be more. A lot of store theft occurs when an employee takes out the “trash”, which is really product from the store. Later they return or send an accomplice to take the product out of the trash. If found, I will advise dumpster divers to move on.

Does something just not feel right?
Does something sometimes just feel strange, but you don’t know why? I was on a ride-along with the Ventura Sheriffs in Newbury Park one time, and a bank manager called in a guy who was cruising the parking lot and parking for long periods of time. The deputy responded and found the vehicle. The occupant was part of an identity theft ring, had three different ID’s on him, large amounts of cash, and had placed a camera about the size of a thumb drive into the ATM machine. He was in the process of getting people’s Pin number and account information.
I have found that the Sheriffs / Police in Ventura County are concerned for the citizens they serve and go above and beyond to protect our interests. Whenever I have had to call them (which is in the dozens) their response time is usually no longer than 10 – 15 minutes. Rarely have they had an extended arrival, and that is normally due to a major incident or heavy call times such as during rush hour. If you have something, go ahead and call it in. Even if it turns out to be nothing, they appreciate the citizens being watchful. See the note on “Reporting an Incident” if you do find something strange. Good luck and be safe!
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