LAURENS, S.C. (WSPA) — The Laurens Police Department is partnering with local business owners to create the Law Enforcement and Business Coalition Against Nuisance Conduct. Chief Keith Grounsell said it is designed to help “combat against trespassing, shoplifting, loitering and things that make people feel very uncomfortable when they’re in a certain atmosphere.”
Business owners must sign up to be part of the program. If they find that someone is shoplifting, loitering or creating a problem for their business, they can alert police. Officers will then be able to automatically give that person a trespassing notice for all businesses that are part of the coalition.
“If you find one group of people that are a nuisance in one business, they’re probably a nuisance in the other businesses,” said Grounsell. “If they’re a criminal and committing criminal acts within city limits, hopefully we can deter them from coming in our area because they can be arrested for trespassing after notice.”
Grounsell said his department is starting the program due to increased calls from business owners.
“We have been approached by several businesses of a growing homeless population,” he explained. “We were also approached by several businesses in reference to the same group of individuals that were going around and shoplifting in different areas.”
Grounsell said his officers will evaluate each situation on a case by case basis. Instead of giving out a trespassing notice, officers can decide to connect a person with programs or health services.
“We may encounter somebody who really, truly is in a mental health crisis, and we may need to give them assistance through different avenues.”
The police department will hold a 30-day open enrollment period each year to allow business owners to sign up to be part of the coalition. Several business owners, including Sarabeth McCall, told 7NEWS they are considering joining.
“We really have each other’s backs and are always there for each other,” said McCall, the owner and CEO of Sarabeth Jordan Boutique “It’s super nice to be like a family.”
McCall has owned her boutique in downtown Laurens for a year. She said the downtown business community looks out for each other.
“You feel safe because you know everybody,” said McCall. “I don’t feel like anybody’s a stranger. I know everybody by name.”
The coalition will meet four times a year at the Laurens Police Department.
Business owners have until December 5 to sign up for the coalition.