EagleHerald Staff Writer
MARINETTE—City of Marinette police officers Greg Haemker and Jacob Lindbom visited about 145 Marinette businesses last Wednesday and Thursday in a community outreach effort to inform owners and employees about crime prevention.
The police department launched the Local Business Crime Awareness program in 2018 following a spike in burglaries the previous year. Although the program was put on hold during the worst of the pandemic, Lt. Jeffrey Cate, who leads the Police Department’s Crime Prevention Unit, said the department intends for the so-called “business talks” to be an annual occurrence moving forward.
Haemker and Lindbom began Wednesday morning at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) where they were participating in a meet-and-greet with students prior to the business talks. The officers were sitting around a table on tall chairs in a small conference room chatting with Matt Spear, an NWTC student studying Electro-Mechanical Technology (“I still don’t know what it is, but it sounds smart,” Lindbom joked).
There was a bucket of packaged strawberry and chocolate doughnuts on the table and coffee on the back counter.
“I didn’t know Krispy Kreme came in different flavors beside your glazers,” Lindbom said. “See, we’re not experts in doughnuts like everybody says.”
Haemker laughed at the joke. “Yeah, we can’t just go into a room and be like, ‘oh, that’s raspberry.’”
Lindbom reported that members of the NWTC Auto Club and several nursing students had dropped in to chat.
Around 9 a.m., foot traffic had died down as students went to their classes. Lindbom and Haemker left NWTC and reconvened at the police department to figure out a game plan for visiting businesses.
While Haemker worked on some unknown task at his computer, Lindbom organized documents for each business at the breakroom table. Haemker has participated in business talks in the past, but Lindbom said it was his first time taking part in the program. Being a Marinette native, however, he knows the community well. “I went to a local elementary school, middle school, high school, then on to UW-Marinette before switching to Green Bay,” he said. “I’ve never left, and I have no plans to leave.”
Lindbom said that crime prevention measures are important even in a quiet community like the City of Marinette.
“Some people think, ‘well it’s little Marinette, nothing’s going to happen here,’ but I can attest to the fact that that’s not true,” Lindbom said.
In 2010, Lindbom was one of the Marinette High School students who was held hostage at gunpoint by 15-year-old student. “So yes, things can happen in little Marinette,” he said.
While Lindbom hasn’t conducted crime awareness talks before, he has been working on a separate project to photograph and document the entrances to local businesses. “The pictures are going to be in our system, and we can pull them up here or in the squad cars so we have a better idea of how to approach in a tactical manner for serious incidents,” he said.
Haemker and Lindbom got in their squad cars and agreed to meet first at the Waterfront Store on Ogden Street in Menekaunee. Haemker parked in the gas station lot, walked into the store and approached a woman in a pink shirt and green crocs who was on her knees restocking some shelves (the woman wished to remain anonymous). Lindbom entered the store a moment later.
Haemker handed the woman a Local Business Crime Awareness pamphlet—which has information about crime alert networks in Wisconsin, contacts for Crime Prevention Officers and other particulars pertaining to crime prevention—and told her that he was conducting crime awareness talks.
Haemker and Lindbom split up after visiting the Waterfront Store. Back in the squad car, Haemker said that people are sometimes confused or think it’s strange when officers conduct business talks. “Some people are like, ‘what’s he doing here,’ but then we get other people who are genuinely interested,” he said. “You won’t know unless you try.”
He explained that the police department tries to get the contact information of at least three keyholders, or people who have the authority to open and close a business after hours. These keyholders are the people police will contact if they respond to an alarm after hours.
“We have to update that information quite often because employees leave,” he said. “Sometimes we call a person and they’ll say, ‘well, I haven’t worked for that place in a year.’”
Haemker navigated down University Drive and pulled up in front of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. A smiling older man who asked not to be named immediately came out to greet Haemker and led him inside the church to a small room with bookshelves and a table decorated with an autumn floral arrangement. A woman, Joanne Roland, walked up from the back of the church to join the conversation.
Haemker handed them a pamphlet and explained the purpose of his visit. “This is a place of worship, a Church of God, but crime still happens,” he said.
Roland said the church had taken preventative measures and installed some cameras and new locks a few years ago. The church didn’t, however, have up-to-date keyholder information.
“I’m not sure they really knew what I was talking about when I asked for their key holder information,” Haemker said later. “Fortunately, they do a good job locking up.”
“We really appreciate what you do, you have a very difficult job,” Roland said to Haemker before he got back on the road.
Heading north on Pierce Avenue, Haemker stopped at the Marinette Cycle Center. The shop’s owner, John Haines, leaned his elbow on the glass register counter as he listened to Haemker’s talk. He seemed particularly interested in the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network, an informational network facilitated by the Wisconsin Department of Justice that sends notices to registered individuals via email and text about crime in the area.
“I’ll definitely look into this,” Haines said. “I can’t imagine why I wouldn’t sign up.”
In the squad car again after visiting the bike shop, Haemker said that when he has extra time at night, he often checks businesses to see if they have open doors.
“You wouldn’t believe the number I have found open,” he said. “If I check 50 businesses at night, I bet you three or four of them are open, it happens all the time.”
Haemker said it’s important to have the contact information of businesses during these checks.
“We always check to make sure that there isn’t anyone in there who isn’t supposed to be in there, and then we’ll call the business to say, ‘hey, just so you know we found this door open and we locked it up and we checked to make sure no one was inside.”
Pulling up near the police department, Haemker put his squad car into park.
“Alright,” he said, “only a hundred more to go.”