German Village Gazette

Store owner proposes electronic warning system for businesses

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Mary B. Relotto, owner of Mary B.'s at 223. E. Kossuth St. in German Village is proposing the use of an an electronic crime-alert system for Village businesses.

In the year since Mary B. Relotto relocated her consignment shop in German Village, the same shoplifter struck twice and a "friend" of the store wrote a bad check.

In a fourth incident, she said she recognized a suspected shoplifter from her previous store in the Short North and called police. The man ran away.

The owner of Mary B.'s at 223. E. Kossuth St. said she's fortunate in that she recouped all of her money.

She also realizes many business owners aren't as lucky.

So Relotto has proposed starting Be On the Look Out, or BOLO, an electronic crime-alert system for businesses in German Village.

The program was started by the Short North Business Association.

At the time, Relotto's store was located in the neighborhood.

It's easy, she said, and costs virtually nothing.

Attentive shop owners sign up for both email and text alerts on suspicious customers in the neighborhood.

For stores with camera systems, those images also can be relayed through BOLO, but not as a quickly as a brief description by an eyewitness, she said.

Relotto said she intends to reach out to the greater business community in the next week or so to determine interest.

Greg Gamier, co-owner of Village Pet Supply, said he doesn't know much about BOLO but likes the idea.

"I can't be a bad thing," Gamier said.

"The more communication we have between businesses for things like this is only going to be helpful. It's networking in another way. It's protecting each other."

Jeff Smith founded Cyber Block Watch, an online block watch for German Village and Schumacher Place, three years ago.

The volunteer-run system shares crime information and safety tips for residents who register on the site, They receive regular updates via email.

Smith said he's generally supportive of Relotto's objective.

"Every extra layer, getting the word out, is good," he said.

"More people out there talking about crime, helping each other out, is great."

Marie Trudeau, president of German Village Business Community, expressed similar thoughts.

"Anytime a community works together, things get done," said Trudeau, who added the Business Community organization is not sanctioning the program.

"It makes for a better community," Trudeau said.

Maybe word will get out you don't mess with people in German Village."