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Today's Take: Talking to neighbors can prevent crime, broaden horizons

Oct. 22, 2013
 
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Nicole Zich calls it common sense.

She’s the owner of Sassy Girl boutique on Broadway in downtown Green Bay and is part of a group of business owners in that shopping district who alert one another of suspicious activity. Police said that close-knit relationship among about 10 business owners — known as a “shop watch” — led to two shoplifting arrests earlier this month.

“We call each other when something happens in our store, because you don’t want to see it happen to the next person,” Zich said. “It’s really just caring about your neighbor.”

Zich, who has owned her shop for nine years, is quick to point out that the specialty business owners haven’t formed any formal group but instinctively look out for one another as a common courtesy. They know each other by first name and also stay in close contact with their neighborhood police officer.

A 47-year-old woman faces charges that she played a role in the Oct. 9 thefts at three shops in that area. One of the stores hit was The Gift Itself, which sells arts and jewelry. Owner Rachel Sowinski called it “a slap in the face.”

Police said a man and woman who were arrested told them they are addicted to heroin, which has infiltrated deep into the community. The jewelry, clothing and other items recovered were valued at almost $250. Those items were returned to the stores.

The business owners encourage other residents to get to know the people they work and live by. That may mean stepping out of your comfort zone and sparking conversation with a familiar face or possibly a stranger.

Talking to business owners Monday was the first time I had visited some of those Broadway shops, and I was amazed at what I learned.

Zich of Sassy Girl told me about her shop’s genius policy regarding high school dance dresses. Each girl who buys a dress lists the school she’s from to make sure that no girl from her school can buy the same dress, even if it’s in a different color.

While talking to Hat-cetera owner Sam Abrego, I got a quick lesson on how to put a crease in an open crown fedora. He also revealed that his shop is a favorite stop for many Green Bay Packers players (remember Aaron Rodgers’ cowboy look at last year’s welcome back luncheon?).

I eagerly await Artstreet’s arrival for that one weekend each summer, but was blown away at all the unique handmade crafts and jewelry on sale year-round at The Gift Itself.

Simply put, talking to the people in your community can not only help prevent crime, but it can also open your eyes to the hidden treasures all around you.

Read more Today’s Take columns.

cedavis@pressgazettemedia.com and follow him on Twitter @pgcharlesdavis.

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