Q & A with Executive Director Melissa Somers
March is designated Women’s History Month, a time set aside to recognize the contributions of women in contemporary society as well as their roles throughout history. Here at Crime Prevention Program of Southern California (CPP SoCal), we take this opportunity to recognize the women who have played vital roles in this organization.
It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention. How CPP came about is an excellent example of this statement. In 1984, Dianna Rummel and her husband, who worked in the construction industry, started talking about the amount of theft in the construction industry and the lack of awareness that existed about it. Dianna saw a need and set forth to establish an organization to help construction companies fight the very specific, underestimated and often challenging crime that plagued the industry. The construction industry Crime Prevention Program of Southern California was born. In 2016, Melissa Somers took the helm of CPP, bringing it full circle to the vision that Rummel brought to life 30+ years ago.
What are your thoughts about a woman starting the Crime Prevention Program of Southern California?
Historically, I think women are like that. We see a need and make it happen. Diana started this with little funds and just the basics. The biggest things women bring to the table are an alternative business perspective, perseverance and intuition. When we have the opportunity to address an issue, things start to happen.
How did you end up at CPP SoCal?
I was a stay-at-home mom for 15 years. As a family, we made that choice and I dedicated that time to being the CEO of our family. I was incredibly active in parent teacher organizations, community events and programs at my sons’ schools – to the point that my family would often remind me that it was ok to say “no”. We relocated to SoCal, my boys grew up, life challenges came and went and then a family friend that worked within the construction industry asked if I had a resume and offered to share it where he thought I’d be a good fit.
I’ve never been one to toot my own horn, so pulling together a resume that reflected my value in spite of not being a college graduate or being on anyone’s payroll for so long was incredibly challenging. I had to find my voice to share my worth and communicate my accomplishments. I think stay-at-home moms often don’t recognize their value because it’s not tied to making money. I set aside preconceived notions of what a resume “should” look like, tackled the task at hand and before I knew it, I had a call for an interview with CPP.
Recognizing I had nothing to lose, when I got the interview, I was bluntly honest when asked what I would do if given the opportunity. At the time, I didn’t understand what CPP SoCal was and I said so. Even though I’d done my research, it wasn’t clear to me what the organization was about. I said people needed to know the value. I thought it was important to say why we mattered and have statistics to back it up.
I was hired, had two hours of on-the-job training and was told to “go.” It took some time and it was scary and exciting, but I saw the potential for CPP SoCal.
Since crime never takes a holiday, how much time do you dedicate to your job?
I’m driven and I’m always working. I take my phone everywhere. My phone is right next to me when I sleep. I get calls from the 24/7 Reward Hotline; I get alerts when I get an email and calls from members and law enforcement for assistance whenever it’s needed- even if it’s 2:00 a.m. I believe in what I do and love being able to make an impact.
Every day is different, and I never know what’s going to happen. I work hard not to let anything fall by the wayside. I am constantly prioritizing and if a fraud alert or an incident involving a piece of equipment with live GPS comes in, that immediately takes precedence. Those are time sensitive and it’s important to immediately get on it. I’m constantly multitasking and prioritizing. You can’t just turn it off.
Do you think a woman brings a different perspective to this line of work?
People say all the time that women are the only ones that can multitask. I think everyone does – to a certain extent – but I do feel that women often do it in a different manner. Not better. Not worse. Just different. We compartmentalize things and juggle a number of things at any given time, while maintaining a level of connection that can be difficult. Women often have a different way of communicating that brings depth to those connections and added value to the end-product. Our different perspective, in conjunction with communication style, can lead to a deeper level of understanding and a greater likelihood of retaining the information shared. I firmly believe that there is no one person who knows it all; that we all have different perspectives and bring different things to the table; that if we take the approach that we’re all in this together – whether it’s solving a complex issue or raising responsible members of society – the outcome is a richer, more well-rounded and lasting solution.
I wholeheartedly believe that we all benefit when we employ the adage that instead of giving a man a fish, it’s better to teach him to fish. I make every effort to share information in an engaging, meaningful and fun way in order to maximize the impact of what it is I’m sharing while simultaneously increasing the likelihood of retention.
Are there many women in this field across the US?
As Executive Director of CPP I have the privilege of working with people in both construction and law enforcement. There aren’t a lot of women in either. There are, however, more now than there were even five years ago and that’s exciting. I think it’s really cool that more women are getting into these fields. We bring a lot of different things to the table that can enrich the process and get results.
What troubles me is that we as women often define ourselves by comparing ourselves to others. We need to celebrate our differences, who we are as individuals and our accomplishments instead of focusing on checking the boxes that others have put out there for us. We need to make every effort to support and empower each other – and all others – instead of tearing each other down.
We’re not all the same for a reason. Differences aren’t a bad thing. If we were all the same, we’d never evolve. We wouldn’t be able to recognize a problem let alone find a solution.
What is your favorite part of this job?
Of course, when we recover something, that’s such a rush. I also love my role of bringing people together. That’s one reason we have the tagline, “Together, We Make a Difference.” I help bridge the gap and I act as liaison, working toward a common goal of crime prevention. I work with some incredibly smart, dedicated and supportive people and I feel privileged to be in a position to help them however I can.
What seems to be the “hottest” item out there right now? Why?
Anything you can sell on Craigslist or similar platforms. Seriously. Tampers, rammers, handheld generators, compressors and anything towable like message boards and light plants. Bad guys know these are hard to track and many of these items are not marked. You’ve got to mark it. You have to have a tight inventory to be able to report stolen items and provide the reporting officer with the best information to increase the chance of recovery.
People don’t realize how much theft happens in construction, how easy they make it for criminals, nor how determined the bad guys really are. These are often crimes of opportunity and you have to be diligent in taking as many steps as possible, such as using our Reward Hotline decals and signs, to deter thieves.
What do you think is the most misunderstood part of your business?
People assume that because equipment has GPS or Lojack, there’s no benefit to being a member of CPP. What they don’t realize is the vital role that CPP plays as a liaison to law enforcement and the number of challenges presented when a piece of heavy equipment is stolen. How quickly will you know it’s been stolen? How quickly will it get reported? Will you have the BEST information on hand to report it? What, exactly, is the “best” information to report? Will the information in the report get entered into the stolen system properly? Will it be entered into the correct stolen system? CPP addresses these issues through member training, on-going support and verifying – whenever possible – our members’ police reports and the information they hold. Additionally, we spread the word about your missing equipment so that instead of only a few people in your company knowing about the loss, other CPP members, our entire law enforcement contact list, and in turn their contacts, know what has been taken and the circumstances surrounding the theft. CPP works directly with our partners in law enforcement and reaches out to them to ensure every step possible is taken to increase the chances of recovery.
We know how useful technology is and encourage our members to use it whenever possible. We also know that nothing is completely fool-proof and the importance of implementing multiple layers of both high and low-tech prevention methods. Equipment gets stolen every day. Thieves know they have a multitude of ways to quickly dismantle, hide or sell their haul. They are aware of the existence of GPS and how to disable it or place the equipment where it’s not easily recovered. CPP members know how to take multiple steps to prevent theft and that they’ve got a plan in place; someone to call for help who is working directly with law enforcement to do everything possible to recover their loss.
One of our members didn’t understand the value membership. Then one day his company had two pieces of equipment with GPS stolen. They were able to track it to a location on private property and behind gates. They couldn’t get to it. He called and gave me the info and I contacted one of our law enforcement partners for help. They recovered the items within 25 minutes. Later that member told me, “I’m a believer!”
Look, thieves know all the tricks. They also believe they can strike in Riverside, move on to San Bernardino and then down to San Diego because they think no one is watching them. But we are. More importantly we are sharing the information with our law enforcement contacts throughout the region to assist them in stopping the bad guys. We all know that more often than not it’s not what you know, but who. We work very hard to maintain our extensive list of contacts throughout the region – cultivating relationships so we have the best advocate to call when a member suffers a loss.
Additionally, you can’t just have the belief that your construction equipment is fine because you have insurance coverage. Claims get filed and costs go up. Insurance companies notice how CPP SoCal works and the effects our efforts have in minimizing risk. When a company joins CPP it demonstrates engagement in a community that is taking an active role in being a part of the solution. It sends a message – to your insurance company, your customers, the community and most importantly to the Bad Guys – that “Together, We ARE MAKING a Difference!”