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Police aim to help businesses guard against thieves
8th annual Business Police Academy is an 11-week program
Syed Saqib Ali, left, helps customer Darrell Millwood with his purchase at J&S Food Mart on Thompson Bridge Road Monday afternoon. Registration is available for the eighth annual Business Police Academy, which can help business owners learn about robbery prevention, credit card fraud, shoplifting and other crimes.

Business Police Academy

When: 6:30-9 p.m. weekly starting Sept. 13 and lasting for 11 weeks
Where: Gainesville Justice Center, 701 Queen City Parkway SW, Gainesville
How much: Free
To register: Applications are available at Gainesville's website, at the justice center or by calling crime prevention officers Joe Britte or Kevin Holbrook at 770-287-0893. Deadline is Aug. 26.

With armed robberies at two different local convenience stores this past week, store owners likely have safety on the mind. And Gainesville Police have something to help.

The department will host its eighth annual Business Police Academy to instruct store owners on crime prevention.

The academy is an 11-week program with one class each week 6:30-9 p.m. beginning Sept. 13.

Akbar Dhannani, owner of the J&S Food Mart on Thompson Bridge Road, said after his store was robbed Thursday he is considering closing earlier as well hiring an additional night employee. Police are still seeking information in that case along with another robbery Saturday at a Shell station at West Ridge Road near Interstate 985.

“We are having a meeting to decide on (what to do),” he said. “We need to take precautions.”

Chuck Barton, division manager for QuikTrip Corp., said company policy there requires employees to cooperate with individuals during a robbery.

“We do everything except for ask them to come back,” he said. “Our policy is to get them in and out as quickly as possible and give them everything they ask for.”

Joe Britte, public information officer for the Gainesville Police Department, said that’s what police instruct in such situations.

“There’s insurance on most of these businesses out there where the money can be replaced, but a life cannot,” he said.

Britte said police also hope those who attend the academy can share what they learn with other business owners.

“The purpose of this is to educate our business owners and our employees on how to keep themselves safe throughout, I would say, the busiest time of the year,” Britte said. “We have shopping for back to school, we have Christmas, we have Thanksgiving coming up. It’s kind of right on time as far as being proactive within the business community.”

Each of the academy’s classes has a unique theme, including a day at the firing range learning about police weaponry and firearm laws, a police ride-along and a mock crime scene.

The course focuses on being hands-on to give participants a more realistic experience, Britte said.

The mock crime scene allows business owners to learn about evidence collection and the importance of preserving a crime scene.

“Wherever the suspect was, or what he or she came into contact with, just leave it alone,” Britte said. “And just kind of block it off and let the police officers or investigators go ahead and preserve the scene and collect evidence.”

Anyone interested in participating in the academy can register at Gainesville's website at the Gainesville Justice Center on Queen City Parkway or by calling Britte or officer Kevin Holbrook at 770-287-0893. The deadline to register is Aug. 26.

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