Cybercrime and cybersecurity may dominate the headlines at the moment, but ensuring the physical security of their premises remains imperative for any business. Physical corporate security threats such as robbery, property damage and assault are still prevalent. If you are targeted, physical security issues can threaten reputations, livelihoods and even lives.
The list of physical crimes that can affect businesses goes on and on, with many variables such as industry sector and organisation size, location and type of property playing a role in what could impact your business. Although some businesses, such as grocery and retail stores, are more likely to be the target of criminals, all businesses must be aware of potential security risks. Here are some big ones to look out for.
From graffiti, smashed windows and landscape damage right up to arson, criminal damage not only causes an annoying mess, but also an expensive and even dangerous one. Vandalism is one of the most common crimes affecting businesses: according to UKCrimeStats.com, in May 2018 alone, there were 48,584 reported incidents of criminal damage and arson across England and Wales.
Large, remote buildings such as warehouses and factories, and facilities with wide open spaces such as educational institutions, are particularly at risk. And repeat victimisation is also common, with vandals often returning to vulnerable premises: for example, in an Office of National Statistics (ONS) survey of crimes against businesses in 2017, vandalism accounted for a third of all crimes in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector and had the highest repeat victimisation rate at five incidents per premises.
From cash and merchandise to office supplies and technology, businesses in certain industries are at risk to both internal and external theft.
According to the ONS, shoplifting is the most common crime committed against businesses in England, with almost a quarter of those in the wholesale and retail sector experiencing shoplifting in 2017. And, according to the British Retail Consortium’s 2017 Retail Crime Survey, the total direct cost of retail crime has risen to just over £700m annually.
Other businesses that welcome visitors, such as restaurants, hotels and office buildings, may also be an easy target since they often have multiple entry points and visitors coming and going.
As well as external theft, businesses are also at risk of employee theft. Although the number of police recorded incidents have dropped in recent years, there were still 10,347 recorded ‘theft by an employee’ offences in 2016/17, according to Statistica data. While the odd loo roll or pen might not be missed, ongoing theft of stock, cash and even expensive tech could cause a much bigger problem and ultimately affect the bottom line.
Although burglary is less common than criminal damage and theft, the items taken or damaged are likely to be of higher value and it therefore can have a greater long-term impact on a business. Around 12 percent of premises in both the retail and wholesale sector and the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector experienced burglary (including attempts) in 2017, with nine percent of manufacturing premises being burgled (ONS).
While not as common as other crimes, robbery can be more prevalent in certain industries: for example, in 2017, five percent of premises in the wholesale and retail sector experienced robbery versus one percent in manufacturing. As robbery is the taking of an item through violence, or by threat of violence, it can endanger the lives of staff and customers, and is therefore it is one the most dangerous crimes to affect businesses.
As discussed above, it’s not just the physical resources of a business that can be affected by crime. In many industries, people are the biggest asset a company has; in all industries, they are the most important. Unfortunately, threatening behaviour is on the rise: in 2017, 10 percent of wholesale and retail businesses experienced assaults, an increase of 40 percent since 2012.
But it’s not just shops that are at risk from unruly and abusive people: in transport, hospitality and even hospitals, there may be disorderly or abusive customers or patients, such as those who are drunk. In any business or organisation where staff are customer facing, assaults and threats are an unfortunate risk.
So, in light of the potential security risks, how do you go about protecting your business from crime? Here are some steps you could take.
This is easier said than done, and often you can’t predict a problem until it happens. Start by identifying patterns: if there is repeat vandalism of the premises, try to work out why you are being targeted. Is it the nature of your business, such as disgruntled customers or protestors, or is there an epidemic of antisocial behaviour in the area?
If stock or cash keeps goes missing, is there a focused time, place or item? Have any other businesses in your area or industry been targeted by crime recently, and if so are you vulnerable to the same fate?
Review the way you do things and assess whether they could be done better, and indeed more securely. Do you keep cash on site unnecessarily? Do you empty the tills frequently enough? Is it too easy for staff to put their hand in the till? Do you do stock checks and monitor the equipment and premises often enough? Do you tidy up and store away expensive items or equipment at the end of the day?
If you do identify any patterns, try mixing things up and dividing duties between staff so you can spot any irregularities. Try to minimise risks by keeping as little cash on site as possible, routinely empty tills and secure equipment such as laptops overnight.
Your staff are hugely important in helping prevent crime – they are there on the frontline and can act as the first line of defence. It is therefore vital to train staff how to deal with suspicious behaviour and how to stay safe.
Ensure employees are trained in your security plan and systems, such as how to open and close the business securely, and that they know how to recognise, react to and report a crime with minimum risk to their safety.
If you’re worried about employee crimes, ensure your staff are aware of your disciplinary policies and procedures. Rather than imposing a ‘Big Brother’ style approach to security, emphasise that any security measures implemented are for their safety, for the good of the business, and therefore their job security. If you have a clear desk policy, ensure it’s adhered to.
You should also identify any weaknesses in the existing security and any vulnerable areas of the premises, both externally and internally.
Are there any blind spots where existing security systems don’t cover? Doors are the most obvious, and also the most vulnerable access point. Make sure that you are aware of all possible ways in, including small windows, hollow roof space and side or back doors.
Address any damage to the business premises immediately: if damage is not repaired, vandals are likely to cause more damage and eventually this could lead to more serious crime such as breaking in entry. By keeping a well-maintained, ordered environment, you can send out the message that the area is monitored and that crime is not tolerated.
Similarly, good housekeeping is important. Keep the premises tidy and ensure all equipment is in good working order, which will give out the impression to employees that you are keeping an eye on things.
As the old proverb goes, prevention is better than a cure. For SMEs particularly, crime can have huge financial cost which could not only threaten the incomes of employees, but could even shut a business down. Therefore, crime prevention and improved security should be seen as an investment.
Once you’ve identified any weaknesses in your security or if an incident occurs and highlights a vulnerability, address the problem as soon as possible as repeat victimisation is most likely to occur soon after the initial crime. Strengthen doors and windows, fit window locks and, depending on your industry and type of assets, consider physical barriers such as fences and roller shutter doors.
Access control systems, either mechanical or electronic, can be installed in buildings such as offices, industrial facilities and educational centres to help prevent unauthorised access. For more valuable items or cash which must stay on site out-of-hours, consider installing a safe or locking them in another room for an extra level of protection.
As well as physical barriers, don’t forget intrusion detection methods such as surveillance cameras, security lights and an alarm system. Not only will they alert you to any suspicious activity, visual security measures can act as a deterrent so ensure any cameras, lights and alarms are noticeable and signposted.
Consider hiring corporate security for your business to add that extra level of protection and help safeguard your premises and assets. The visual presence of a security guard can prevent crime by acting as a strong, visible deterrent, making criminals think twice about targeting your business in the first place. It can also put your employees and your customers at ease and make them feel more secure on your premises.
When you choose to hire security guards, you can make them responsible for access control and monitoring who comes in and out, as well as keeping an eye out for any suspicious activity.
If there is a potential or real threat, professional security can act as a rapid first response solution. Highly trained to deal with a wide range of criminal activity or dangerous situations, they can detect suspicious behaviour, detain a suspect, liaise with the police and fill out detailed incident reports.
As well as serving a security purpose, security guards can also act as a first point of contact, greeting and interacting with your customers, visitors or staff. Many security guards are capable of performing additional roles such as concierge duties, ensuring you have professional protection with a welcoming touch.
For more tips on how to protect your business against crime, see Churchill Security’s Small Business Crime Prevention Guide.
Churchill Security is a national, cross-industry security company. A trusted provider of corporate and retail security, we only deploy the most highly-trained security guards and offer a truly customer-centric approach. Get in touch today if you’re looking to hire security.