A hair salon operator is looking for ways to help fellow small business owners deter petty criminals from harming their bottom line.
Sherry Lerette, owner of Appearances Hair Studio, heard multiple stories over the summer months about Windsor and area businesses being broken into.
By mid-September, she had heard enough. Lerette launched a social media campaign to try to get an idea of how many Windsor and area businesses had been the target of a break and enter this year.
“I see a lot of people throughout the run of a day,” said Lerette.
“Just seeing the effect that it was having on these small businesses was really frustrating as a small business owner,” she added.
Lerette said the purpose of the social media post was the encourage dialogue about what’s happening in the community and to try to find a solution.
“I love my community and we need to help look after each other. I guess that's why I started compiling that list,” said Lerette in a phone interview.
Within a week, Lerette discovered that there had been at least 20 break-ins this year.
She said it’s concerning not only because it’s happening in this community but because of how it impacts the businesses.
Due to insurance premiums, it’s often cost-prohibitive for small businesses to lay a claim.
“Some of the places that got hit, they didn't get more than $50 but they did $1,000 worth of damage. As a business owner, you're not going to put your insurance up when you can just pay the $1,000, because it's going to affect you long term. So you can eat that cost and fix it yourself,” she said, adding, “That's a chunk of change.”
Additionally, there are other costs often not considered. Depending on the severity of damage, it can close a business for a couple of days.
“One of the other salons had to be closed down for a day. Well, that inconveniences all of your customers, inconveniences all your staff, who are losing wages. It has a lot of effect for small business,” she said.
Lerette brought her concerns to the RCMP once she received feedback. She said she was impressed by the police’s response.
“I honestly left there believing that they're trying everything they can do. So maybe if we can help them, we can solve this," she said, noting she’s encouraging business owners to beef up efforts to deter criminals and asking residents to keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour.
Lerette said she has “a pretty feisty security system” that alerts her whenever someone steps within 30 feet of her business after hours. She acknowledges that not every small business can afford such a system and said the police provided her with some helpful tips to share.
Business owners are being advised not to leave cash on the premises at night, to indicate with a sign on the door that money is removed daily, and leave an empty cash register till open and visible for would-be thieves.
“If they know there's no cash, it's not going to be worth their while to break in,” she said.
Another idea is to get a trail camera, which takes photos whenever there’s movement.
Sgt. Mike Balmaceda, of the Windsor and District RCMP, confirmed that there have been multiple break-ins this year and said there is a concerted effort underway to try to catch the criminals.
“These breaks go beyond just the Windsor district area. They go into Kings and even into the HRM area,” said Balmaceda in a phone interview. As such, there are multiple divisions working to put a stop to the perpetrators.
“We've increased the size of our investigative force, pretty well three-fold by tacking into those units,” he said, noting the provincial forensic identification section and other specialized divisions are also involved.
Balmaceda said the police have identified a modus operandi and while he can’t provide too many details, he is optimistic the break and enters will cease.
“I'm not at liberty to divulge techniques that police are employing because that would allow our quote-unquote perpetrators to surrept our efforts,” he said. “But there are other avenues that we are working on.”
Both Lerette and Balmaceda said they hope small business owners band together to make their sites less attractive to thieves by following the aforementioned tips.
Lerette said she hopes the community will help police as they look to put a stop to the crime spree.
“Small businesses are here to support and serve our community, so really we appreciate it when our community helps us back,” said Lerette.
“If you see something that doesn't look right, jot it down or make a phone call. If you see somebody lurking around a building, pick up the phone and call somebody and have somebody go check it out,” she encouraged.
Did you know?
Sgt. Mike Balmaceda, of the Windsor District RCMP, said there have been 24 similar business break-ins — 19 in Windsor, four in Kings County, one in Kentville — between Jan. 1, 2019 to Sept. 27, 2019.