To Catch a Thief

Small businesses fight against burglaries

By Seth Sandronsky
July 2019

Most small businesses operate on a thin profit margin. Burglaries and robberies can make those margins thinner still. How can local businesses combat crime?

Sunil and Pam Hans own and operate the popular Compton’s Market in East Sacramento. “I know my customers,” Sunil says.

Sometimes there are shoppers who the Hans and their staff don’t know. That typically means new customers, a good thing for the business.

But some new shoppers aren’t good—such as the strangers who passed counterfeit money at the grocery store. “One was dressed like a doctor,” Sunil says. The neighborhood has many doctors thanks to its proximity to hospitals.

When he discovered the fake bills, Sunil called City Councilmember Jeff Harris and the Sacramento Police Department. He bought a dollar-bill scanner and posted store surveillance photos of the alleged currency criminals on the social media site Nextdoor and the store’s Facebook page, hoping to deter future crime.

“I want to get the community involved,” he says.

 

At the Byuti Salon and Spa in Midtown, a burglar entered the small business and took money, products and iPads. Surveillance cameras recorded the suspect’s image but not the crime, according to the website Sacramento Valley Crime Stoppers. Byuti owner Jill Petersen declined to comment.

Back in East Sacramento, burglars stole $80,000 of refurbished Apple products from Double Dex, a computer store. “We are typically online, but did not have a retail space,” says John Sigurdson, chief executive of Double Dex. “These people obviously knew what they were looking for—the most expensive products.”

While the alleged counterfeiting criminals at Compton’s Market have been arrested, the Double Dex theft remains unsolved. In the meantime, Sigurdson changed insurance carriers and added a policy that enhances the firm’s protection against cybercrime. He also expanded his product line, adding refurbished Logitech products to the inventory.

Sacramento ranks sixth in property crime among comparable-size California cities, according to Sacramento Police reports and the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting standard. Property crime is highest in Oakland, followed by San Francisco, Stockton, Fresno and Bakersfield.

Small businesses are not alone in experiencing crimes such as burglary and robbery. Large companies are victimized as well, but they often have deeper resources to weather such setbacks. For small businesses, bouncing back after a burglary or robbery can be difficult.

Pharmacies are obvious targets for criminals hoping to steal drugs. Rite Aid in the Camellia Shopping Center was struck one afternoon this spring when two suspects grabbed painkillers Norco and OxyContin.

They used a pillowcase for the stolen items, exited to a blue SUV and drove away. Chris Savarese, a Rite Aid spokesperson, declined to comment. The thieves were experienced, police spokesman Marcus Basquez says, but many criminals eventually make a mistake and get caught.

After each incident, police crime scene investigators respond and process the store for fingerprints and other clues. Detectives view surveillance videos to identify the suspects’ clothes and vehicles. “Then it’s a matter of time,” Basquez says.

Where else can businesses turn for help after a theft? Some seek assistance from family and friends. Banks and credit unions lend to businesses seeking funds after losses from burglaries and robberies.

Sharyn Gardner, faculty coordinator of the Center for Small Business at Sacramento State, says the center does not specifically provide services to businesses that have been burglarized or robbed. However, the center provides faculty-led community engagement with students who team up to offer local businesses free technical help in many areas, such as management analysis, supply chain logistics, marketing and sales.

Another resource for Sacramento businesses is the Small Business Development Center, supported by the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

For small businesses, the cost of stolen goods goes beyond the replacement value of lost inventory. At Double Dex, Sigurdson understands the frustration of being victimized. “The burglars left no fingerprints,” he says.

Seth Sandronsky can be reached at sethsandronsky@gmail.com.

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