The Whitehall Division of Police is putting would-be thieves on notice: Those wearing badges aren't the only ones watching.

Through the Safer Whitehall initiative, Whitehall police Chief Mike Crispen and the department's officers are giving business owners and residents a crash course in thwarting crime -- particularly retail theft and identity fraud.

About 10 business owners met Feb. 15 with Crispen at the police station, 360 S. Yearling Road, for Theft Reduction and Commerce Safety training -- dubbed TRACS.

Later the same day, Crispen hosted dozens of community members at New Life Church, 441 S. Yearling Road, for the division's latest town-hall meeting, during which tips to prevent identity theft and fraud were discussed.

Both events were part of the Safer Whitehall initiative that began last year with the first town-hall meeting.

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Last week's town hall was the third; the TRACS workshop was the first of its kind.

Violent crime is down 26 percent in the city from 2016 to 2017, according to Whitehall police.

The last homicide in Whitehall occurred in April 2016; it was the second slaying of that year. The city recorded nine homicides in 2015.

Robberies decreased by 18 percent from 2016 to 2017; burglaries were down 35 percent in that same period, according to Whitehall police.

Despite the downward trend, Crispen said he wants to further reduce violent crime and reverse an increase in thefts that occurred in 2017.

"It is our philosophy that in order to make Whitehall safer, we need to reduce the violent crime in our city," Crispen said. "Drugs are associated with violent crime and drug users aren't working normal jobs to support their drug habit ... they support their drug habit by stealing."

Theft-related offenses account for 65 percent of the crime in the city, Crispen said.

Removing theft opportunities will further reduce crime, he said.

The TRACS workshop is designed to help business owners -- especially small-business owners without a complement of loss-prevention officers and high-definition cameras -- to identify how thieves and shoplifters generally operate.

"In the TRACS program, we are educating businesses to reduce the opportunities for theft, partner with police to prosecute offenders, and to even recognize and prevent internal threats to their establishments," Crispen said.

Among those participating last week in the TRACS program was Matt Carson, production manager for Quality Stitch Embroidery, 4300 E. Main St.

Carson said he learned about the TRACS program at a Whitehall Area Chamber of Commerce meeting.

"They covered a lot," said Carson, including how to assess at-risk situations for thefts.

Carson said the store has not experienced any thefts since relocating about six months ago from Town and Country Shopping Center. In its 16 years there, Carson said, shoplifting was sometimes a problem.

Still, lessons learned at TRACS proved useful, he said.

"I'll be talking (to the owner) about having a plan in place for shoplifters and internal thefts, too," Carson said.

Business owners who complete the TRACS program will earn accreditation -- and police expect them to flaunt it.

"You will begin to see establishments displaying the Safer Whitehall label on their storefronts to indicate they are part of this initiative," Crispen said.

A second TRACS workshop has not been scheduled, but there will be more courses in the future, possibly as soon as April, Crispen said.

For more information, follow the "Whitehall Police Department" Facebook page.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo