Sparta business owners are getting help cutting down the number of robberies and thefts thanks to the Chamber of Commerce.
The Sparta Police Department gave a presentation on what business owners can do to prevent theft in their stores and what to do after a theft has occurred. The Police Department hopes this information will help owners better prepare for situations when they arrive.
Arenz Shoes, in Sparta, has had a few robberies over the years.
"Oh yeah, we've had things. Some that you see, some that you know happen, and some that you don't find out til later, and certainly I'm sure there's some that we don't know about," Mike Arenz, owner of Arenz Shoes, said.
And Arenz has tried to do something about it.
"One time I had to chase somebody down the street. Caught him two blocks away. That was in my younger days; I don't think that I would be able to do that right now," Arenz said.
Fortunately for Arenz and his store, no robberies recently, but not all Sparta business owners have been as lucky.
"There was some issues with shoplifting in our downtown area, and a couple months ago we had a few armed robberies in the Tomah and Sparta areas. So we decided it was time to bring the community together and talk about it and how we can prevent that from happening in the future," Tim Hyma, executive director for the Sparta Area Chamber of Commerce, said.
So the Sparta Police Department gave business owners some advice on how to stay ahead of shoplifters.
"Kind of common-sense-type features sometimes. You know, making sure that your customer-to-employee ratio is well so that you can kind of watch whats going on. A lot of it is just good customer service and paying attention," Mike Kass, Sparta Police Department's chief of police, said.
The department also gave tips on what to do during an armed robbery:
1. Do not panic
2. Do not resist
3. Obey the robber's instructions
4. Be alert
5. Look for distinguishing characteristics
Arenz hopes this information will keep shoplifters out of his store.
"We've found merchandise in a box. It was old merchandise, they put on new merchandise as far as clothing and left with it and left us with an old pair of stinky shoes," Arenz said.
The Sparta police have had good luck in arresting those robbers in their area. There is only one case with no arrest made, but they said the community and local businesses have been very influential in solving those cases.
The police chief said this type of meeting isn't something they have often, but they would like to offer more classes like this in the future.