Auburn business owners deter crime with a few design tricks

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design program is available to local businesses.

With lawnmowers, power equipment and machinery left outside at night, the AgriShop Ace Hardware store in Auburn is a frequent target of theft.

Darren Jones, owner of the AgriShop, estimates the business has lost $30,000 to $40,000 in the past year because of thefts and damages.

Thieves have kicked out the panels of a wooden fence at the edge of the premises. They have driven out lawnmowers, smashed windows and stolen power equipment. Trucks have sped into the storefronts of two separate local Ace Hardware stores.

New wrought iron fencing with stainless steel cables now perimeter sections of the property. Metal grids installed on a number of windows provide extra security against smash-and-grabs.

At closing, employees move heavy pallets of material in front of the entrances. That means a vehicle speeding into the building will crash straight into thousands of pounds of fertilizer.

The AgriShop engages in a constant cycle of finding new strategies to crime-proof the premises against evolving criminal tactics.

“If they want it bad enough, they’ll figure out a way to do it,” Jones said. “[We] just don’t make it easy.”

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) serves as the philosophy of designing urban spaces with efforts to deter crime in mind.

As part of its crime prevention community program, the Auburn Police Department implemented a security survey and site plan program to provide businesses with feedback on improving security and surrounding environments in order to reduce and prevent criminal activity.

The AgriShop received its nine-page report in February from the Auburn Police Department.

The report assesses the security and environment of the site — including visibility and lighting, security features, cleanliness and maintenance — and factors three years of crime statistics in the area to recommend improvements for the AgriShop.

As per the report’s recommendations, Jones and the AgriShop have contacted the city of Auburn to attempt to replace the remainder of wooden and chainlink fencing with wrought iron, and also trimmed hedges to improve sight-lines.

Since the program’s inception in May 2022, officers from the Auburn Police Department have conducted four full business security surveys, said Officer Aaron Williams. A single survey takes about two to three weeks to complete.

Additionally, the department hopes to expand the service to residential properties and work alongside the city’s planning department and code enforcement division to offer suggestions for properties in the design phase.

In addition, the Auburn Police Department would like to see changes to existing city codes in order to more closely follow the principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design,” Williams said.

The police department handles the administration of the program, not the planning department — though planning concepts drive the ideas behind the program, said Alyssa Tatro of the city’s Department of Community Development.

The Code Compliance division of the Department of Community Development did not immediately respond for comment.

For applications of businesses planning to sell marijuana in Auburn, municipal code requires the business complete a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design review through the Auburn Police Department and implement any recommended measures.

Call 253-931-3063 to make an appointment to have your property inspected.