Bainbridge Police Department meets with local business owners after downtown break-ins

In light of a string of burglaries in recent weeks that resulted in theft at three downtown properties, Bainbridge police are asking downtown merchants to step up their own security efforts.

At Tuesday's merchant meeting hosted by the Bainbridge Island Downtown Association, Police Lt. Chris Jensen asked business owners to help keep Winslow safe.

"We do everything we can within our power, within our abilities, within our equipment to give you guys the best service we can every day, and we appreciate the opportunity to do that," Jensen said. "And we need your help."

Facing the room of business owners, Jensen asked how often they thought his crew found an unlocked door or window in downtown Winslow.

The answer was surprising.

"Probably three out of seven nights, easy. And realize we're not checking every business," he said.

Jensen reassured owners that the police department patrols Winslow Way and the surrounding streets regularly. That includes walking through and biking down the alleys behind businesses where criminal activity is likely to happen.

Police check for locked door bolts, intact storefronts and window glass, suspicious sounds and parked cars.

Officers complete random patrol checks in downtown Winslow, Lynwood Center, Rolling Bay and other business areas on the island, Jensen said.

"We're out and about on foot, we're out and about in cars, we use our bikes," Jensen said.

But, Jensen explained, with help from the community, officers will be better equipped to investigate theft and prevent other businesses from being victimized.

Owners were encouraged to have a written process for their employees when they lock up at night, to change their locks periodically, and to keep their eyes open for suspicious persons who frequent the store without buying anything. Jensen also suggested they keep an eye out for unfamiliar cars driving through or parked in the area.

Most importantly, he said, call 911 if an incident occurs.

One store owner told the officer of a recent situation at her business where an employee shut the doors at the end of the night, but hadn't yet locked the bolts.

While in the back room preparing to leave, the employee heard someone burst through the doors. A man with a rolling suitcase behind him stood in the entrance of the store and spoke incoherently. The employee believed he was under the influence in some way, and managed to escort him out of the business.

The owner, who was not there at the time of the incident, asked Jensen about how to handle such a situation.

"You bet ya," Jensen responded. "911. Get us started."

"The only way I get there soon enough to interact and stop it and prevent it or help it, is if somebody gets on the phone early in the process."

Even in an incident where nothing escalates to assault or burglary, Jensen said, officers can still track which direction the suspicious person walked and confront him or her.

After 4 p.m. and on weekends, island residents can call 911 operators for both emergency and non-emergency incidents.

Business owners should feel free to follow up on recent patrol checks or to request a security review of their business by an officer, Jensen added. A security review can also assist owners in getting safety modifications done by their landlord.

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