Businesses and police in Sydney are using an app to communicate in an effort to reduce crime in the downtown.
The Business Watch program connects business owners and police to quickly relay information over the phone.
"If something happens in a business," said Cape Breton Regional Police Const. Gary Fraser. "If somebody's in and they shoplift or steal from the business, everybody will know it instantly."
Program participants use a free app called Slack, which is a cross-platform instant messaging service.
Members of the business watch group can share photos of suspected shoplifters with each other and police. (Holly Conners/CBC)
While it hasn't led to any arrests, it is contributing to an increased sense of safety among shopkeepers.
"It's certainly led us to know our neighbours better, have better relationships so that we can all communicate what's happening around," said Theresa Rowe, area manager for Subway. "And the entire atmosphere on Charlotte Street has completely changed."
It was reports of vandalism and graffiti in the downtown area early this year that prompted the chief of police to ask Fraser to look into what could be done to help businesses.
Fraser launched the group in March.
Since then, members have met monthly for information sessions on topics such as de-escalation, legislation around protection of property, and the use of naloxone kits in the case of opioid overdoses.
More than 30 people attended the most recent meeting, including the municipal councillor for the area, said Fraser.
Fraser said he's looking at setting up a similar group at Sydney's Mayflower Mall.
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