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Police do free security assessments in city, give precautionary tips

Hendersonville Police Lt. Dale Patton is among law officers who give free threat assessments and security tips to local establishments in the city. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

By Pete Zamplas- Security threats in Henderson County are most commonly about break-ins, but a rising tide of violent outbreaks nationwide shines stronger light on importance of free security assessment by local police.

Owners of establishments within the City of Hendersonville can find out from city police what weaknesses they should correct and how to improve security detection and response, to ideally nip situations in the bud such as by recognizing a crisis and calling officers for help.

Most times citizens should not fight back, such as giving money when robbed at gunpoint as it could escalate into violence, police said. But officers note if the robber acts violent anyway, the victim has to decide if an escape is possible or a fight inevitable.

In contrast as a last resort it helps for an establishment’s staff to prepare emergency response plans for the off chance of an “active shooter” whose intent goes beyond robbing and is apparently to inflict harm.

Such tragedy happened in the airport of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Friday. There, an Alaskan man shot to death five people and wounded six others in a sudden rampage before surrendering.

He started shooting after retrieving his registered handgun and ammo in legally-stored carrying cases from baggage claim, then loading the weapon in an airport bathroom stall. He reportedly told the FBI months ago he felt called upon to see ISIS terrorist videos. He flew from Alaska via Minnesota to Florida, without any luggage.

Hendersonville Police do free threat assessments when requested for such establishments as businesses and churches.

The most basic suggestions are to get stronger locks and a security system that monitors extensively, and to limit the number of entrances and exits so they can be better monitored, Patrol Capt. Bruce Simonds noted. The more metal the better in a linked system of dead-bolt and door plates, rather than a plate easily crowbar-ripped from the door’s wood.

Security basics include motion detectors, and security cameras covering all entrances and within a business. These cameras are smaller and more subtle than earlier ones, said Lt. Dale Patton who does security assessments. “The days are gone of a red blinking light warning you’re being watched.”

Security cameras did in serial bank robber Chad Schaffner. He struck 14 banks in six states in summer 2009, including two in Henderson County. The Indiana native was armed and brazenly unmasked, had his likeness from security videos put on giant billboards in eight states, was recognized on the TV show “America’s Most Wanted,” hunted by the FBI, and caught in Missouri by the end of the year.

Precautions are most typically to prevent someone from breaking in and robbing. But many tips also help prevent an outbreak of violence, and crowd control during it. A drunken brawler with a weapon is a more common threat in a town, than a terrorist or “lone wolf” assailant, authorities say, but they suggest being prepared for various scenarios.

Planning and precautions help to deter, and to nip in the bud potential crime. As Capt. Simonds emphasized, “surveillance helps after the fact. But do what you can to prevent crime” such as by making it tougher to happen, detecting it as it evolves and calling police and having internal security available until authorities arrive especially to stem any violence that erupts.

“The more eyes and ears, the better,” Lt. Patton said. For instance, he said, a church greeter can simultaneously “assess” situations. This can be to size up people’s emotional state as they enter, keep an eye on someone who acts extremely edgy or even combative and watch for a simmering conflict such as between an estranged couple. It helps to have a flow chart on who to contact, to act as security director to make decision and others to help. A security team on-hand or at least on-call is ideal. A group can much better handle a disruptive person than one bouncer.

Canine (K-9) officer Rob Cantwell said furry colleague Maky growls only on command, is a visual deterrent who can help settle down a situation, “senses if tempers get high” for an extra assessor in a crisis, and can outrun and catch human perpetrators if they flee.

The police-community security program under Chief Herbert Blake sprung into greater action for local churches after Dylann Roof’s mass shooting of nine people in a black congregation in Charleston, S.C. in mid-2015, Simonds noted. There have periodically been other violence sprees by a lone attacker or small group, in various places across this country and abroad.

Though a small town seems insulated from such acts, “it can happen anywhere,” Capt. Simonds said.

Thus, it helps to be prepared. Police suggest that a person from an establishment get emergency tips from police, then instruct co-workers. There can be teams for security, also fire and medical emergencies at the workplace.

Hendersonville patrol officer Rob Underwood trained at the regional N.C. Justice Academy in Edneyville. In turn, he has recently trained such clients as Wingate University.

Local K-12 public schools already have their own security programs and protocols in place, Patton noted. For instance, they have limited entrances for vehicles and for visitors to “funnel” them to where a main office can watch and sign them in. The school resource officer is on hand to be the initial enforcer/responder. Students can detect trespassers, and be a first line of surveillance, he said. “The kids know who belongs on campus, and who doesn’t.”

Knowing who is staff and belongs at a worksite helps — especially in off hours, and since most places do not have a night watchman on hand. A cleaning crew can have access with few or no others around. Several police departments have noted instances of someone posing as a cleaning crew sub, to get in. Ideal is to have on hand a book with a copy of photo IDs of legitimate crew or at least crew leaders.

A key component of preparation by employees to deal with crime is to stay relatively calm, to focus on what is seen and heard. Once a crime is in progress or has just happened, of course it is pivotal to alert law enforcement promptly such as with a cell phone call while out of sight of the culprit to prevent retribution.

The witness should provide definite details about the suspect (visual and speaking mannerisms), get-away vehicle (type and color and tag number), any weapon and method involved, Patton said.

If someone has a credit card stolen, it should be reported right away to law enforcement and also the credit card company to have it locked. The victim files an affidavit with the bank affirming ensuing transactions are by not the card owner but the thief. TO prove who truly used the card, purchases and ATM withdrawals can be traced to their precise time and linked with security video of the store or bank, Lt. Patton noted.

Businesses can seek security checks at special times, and coordinate with police such as by providing contacts for a building owner, in case of suspicious activity seen on patrol.

For more details on free security assessments by police or to make an appointment, call Susan Castle at 697-3051. Also call her to register a home or business for police alarms.

To file a security check request form, go to: To provide/update contact info:

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