District Attorney Sam Sutter hosts crime-prevention seminar for business operators

Article Date: April 15, 2014

From The Herald News

By Kevin P. O’Connor

DARTMOUTH — The robberies were shocking, but 30 years ago, the police were worse, Nelson Hockert-Lotz said. “They advised us not to go into the marginal areas of the city,” he said.

As the owner of Domino’s Pizza franchises in New Bedford and Fall River, that was not advice he could follow. “In the cities where we work, the marginal areas were a big part of our market,” he said.

But he knew his business couldn’t grow if the robberies persisted, and he understood there was a limit to the protection the police could provide.

So, Hockert-Lotz said he looked in the mirror. “We had to look at ourselves,” he said. “The job of protecting our business fell, primarily, on ourselves.”

Hockert-Lotz spoke Tuesday at a small business seminar organized by Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter. The seminar was developed to help small businesses learn how to protect themselves from crime. Hockert-Lotz is the brother of Seth Hockert-Lotz, who owns the Domino’s at 407 S. Main St., Fall River. The brothers worked together through the late 1980s and early 1990s to develop practices that would discourage robberies.

The ideas they came up with became the model for Domino’s restaurants around the country and have been studied by experts on crime prevention, Hockert-Lotz said.

People were robbing pizza delivery drivers for money, Hockert-Lotz said. An obvious first step was to make the robbery not worthwhile. Letting drivers carry a lot of cash provided an “attractive nuisance,” which endangered employees, he said.

The stores also began issuing drivers magnetic stickers for their cars, announcing: “Driver carries less than $20.” They put fliers on pizza boxes, explaining why drivers carried so little cash and offering rewards for information leading to the arrest of robbers. Robberies are rare now, he said.

 “Public safety is a great partnership with business, police and prosecutors,” Hockert-Lotz said. “But it also rests in your hands.”

Sutter kicked off the program, promising business operators that his office would become much more involved in crime prevention.

Other speakers on the program included Dr. Hong Liu of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, an expert on cyber security, officers with the investigative team for Target stores, who outlined the methods shoplifters use and how to catch them, and Julian Smith with the state Division of Consumer Affairs, who discussed the legal obligations of businesses to provide security to customers.

Also on the docket were Robert Digiantomaso, a prosecutor who specializes in street crime, and James McKenna, a prosecutor specializing in financial crime.

“File a civil case for fraud,” he said. “That isn’t wiped out by a bankruptcy.  “And if you decide you aren’t going to sue, why don’t you issue a 1099 (tax form) for the money they took. Let Uncle Sam go after them.”

Digiantomaso urged business owners to invest in and regularly improve good surveillance cameras, and train employees to keep their eyes open.

“The big thing is to teach your employees to look and learn,” he said. “It is much better when everyone is hypervigilant.”

 “But, in the end, also tell them to not get involved,” Digiantomaso said. “It’s only money. Don’t let your employees put themselves in danger.”

Original Article: http://www.heraldnews.com/article/20140415/News/140417320