The City of Burnaby is forming a working group to look into the possibility of a citywide Business Watch Program.
Council approved plans to form the working committee at the June 20 council meeting, now that the six-month Business Watch pilot project out of the Hastings-Brentwood community police office is finished.
"I hope a councillor will be in the group, to make sure it's aware of budget constraints," Mayor Derek Corrigan said at the meeting.
The working group would consist of three members - with representatives from the city, the Burnaby RCMP and the community policing office - and would meet three or four times before presenting its findings to council in December, according to a report from the community policing committee.
The pilot project received positive feedback from property management companies, the Heights Merchants Association, the Bank of Canada, WorkSafe B.C., and the North Road Business Improvement Association, according to the report.
Teri Smith, acting executive director of the Heights Merchants Association, said she would like to see the program continue in the Heights neighbourhood.
"I think anything that really engages the merchants, to take care of the community, is a good idea, she said in a phone interview last week.
Sharing information with the police and other businesses for the good of the area helps create a strong community, she said.
"When merchants are not only engaged themselves, but with their neighbours, it gives a sense of ownership, and that the community is united," Smith said.
This can deter criminals, who may move on to an area where there is less of a chance of them being observed or caught, she added.
The association already had a security alert system, she said, where businesses could let them know about suspicious activity and the association would email the information to other businesses in the area, she said.
But the community police participation helped ramp that up, Smith added.
Part of that was helping businesses become more aware of the community policing office and its role in the community, she explained.
"The community policing model is very different," Smith said. "It's proactive rather than reactive. It's very empowering."
The community policing office did not provide information on how many businesses had participated in the pilot project before press time.
The pilot project consisted of three phases, with businesses first joining the program, then educating employees about it, and finally, maintaining a partnership with the police.
According to the report, a Business Watch co-coordinator is essential to the success of the program. Also, volunteers can be involved, but not as a first contact with a business.
The current temporary co-coordinator could possibly maintain the program in the Hastings-Brentwood area until August, when funding for that position will run out, according to the report.
The project was part of the Burnaby Business Property Crime Reduction Initiative passed by council in 2008.