There is no doubt that crime against small businesses has been a relatively enduring theme in terms of research and initiatives to help in its reduction. The owner of a small business can reduce the risks posed by crime with measures that are both risk commensurate and customer friendly. As advice from the British Retail Consortium states:
“Members of the public often feel happier in areas where security measures have been taken, and even a modest system can help make their experience safer and therefore more enjoyable”
As a backdrop to the efforts that small businesses can take to protect themselves against crime, exists the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. The force majeure of this legislation is working in partnership. This involves a wide range of stakeholders within the community using their collective skills and resources to deal with crime at the local level. The local business community is a vital stakeholder in this process. I would like to consider the principal areas where small businesses can help themselves to reduce the risks from crime in terms of physical security measures. What follows is not designed to be an exhaustive or definitive range of issues that need to be considered, much will depend on the nature and location of the individual business. Notwithstanding this, there are general areas that the small business must consider in their crime risk assessments.
A useful technique is the ‘onion peeling’ approach to physical security. With this approach you move form the outside of your premises, progressively moving inward, considering at each stage the level and type of security required. In this way you can provide in depth defence to your premises. Let us consider some of the stages in this approach.
Perimeter Security: Fencing, Walls and Gates
The type of perimeter security required will depend very much on the type of business premises and its location. For a small corner shop there may be little in the way of perimeter security that can be installed other than reinforcing existing barriers such as walls. A large retailer in an out of town development may need to put up substantial perimeter security. You must bear in mind that if you use measure such as anti-climb paint on your walls or other devices that may cause injury, they should be at least 10 feet form ground level and you must erect signs indicating that such measures are in place. The signs should state that climbing the obstruction might cause injury. It may seem strange but you have a duty of care to those people that use your property whether there for lawful or unlawful purposes. A more comprehensive article on Perimeter Security can be found on page?
This is an important and often underestimated aspect of security for all types of businesses. On average there are 3000 hours of darkness a year. It is perhaps no surprise that most burglaries against commercial premises occur during the hours of darkness.
Lighting is particularly important at the rear of business premises were most burglary entries take place. Lighting linked to a timer or photoelectric cell will ensure that the area is illuminated when required. The lamp or lamps should be placed at a height which will prevent interference, with particular attention being paid to any cabling. A high-pressure sodium vapour lamp is preferred since it provides better colour rendition i.e. you are able to discern between true colour more easily. This may be particularly important if you are using a CCTV system. The painting of external walls with white paint can help to enhance the utility of any lighting used. Lighting in the display windows at night not only assists in the security of your premises but also enhances the marketability of your products.
The effective use of CCTV is a complicated issue and it would not be appropriate to go into great detail here. Suffice to say that you as a potential customer should have an under standing of the following:
- Why do you want the system?
- What do you want the system to achieve?
- Is it the most cost effective crime prevention option?
Remember you are the customer, the more you understand about the above three questions the more likely you are to have a system that will meet your needs.
These are perhaps the most frequent points of entry for the burglar. Windows and doors at the rear of premises maybe particularly vulnerable because they are often out of sight of the casual observer. It would be advisable to fit key operated window locks and if necessary either the fitting of bars, roller shutters or replacing existing glazing with laminated glass or applying a laminate film to the existing glazing. This should be considered especially in areas of high risk such as stock rooms. Timber doors should be of a robust construction and to a minimum of 44mm thickness. It is of course possible to reinforce doors with metal sheeting and doors of metal should comply with British Standard BS8220. The locking devices on external doors must be equal or exceed the strength requirement of British Standards BS3621. Doors should have three substantial hinges or a continuous hinge. External opening doors should have hinge bolts fitted. Letterboxes should be a least 400-mm away from the door lock. Where possible letterboxes should be incorporated within the fabric of the building and should be contained with in a sealed fire resistant housing.
An alarms system should be seen as part of your overall security system package. An alarm – professionally installed – should be used in conjunction with good physical security measures. It is important that you and your staff ensure that the installers have included adequate instructions in the use and operation of the system. This is important because many false alarms could result in the banning of the alarm system by the Police.
These can emanate form the stock that you sell the computers that you use, the cash handling procedures and unfortunately, sometimes even the staff that you employ. It is just as important to consider the processes and the taking up of references for new staff. The types of risk in this category are too numerous to be dealt with here but advice is available form your local Crime Prevention Officer or corporate investigator.
Forming such a watch can help you deal with local crime problems by working with the police and Local Authority. Such watches also allow for good practice to be disseminated
To this end any business can call the BUSINESS CRIME CHECK on 0870 6038 764. This is an initiative with the Home Office, The Scottish Office and a leading commercial insurer. It is a free computerised library reference system and provides access for UK businesses to vital crime prevention information, which can be used to help reduce the risks of crime.
Remember you are not alone. Taking stock of the crime risks that can effect your business must be a continuing requirement. There is information and expertise available today. Taking into account the principal areas outline above and taking heed of the specific advice form your local Crime Prevention Officer can help you reduce the crime risks that your business may face.