Securing a commercial premises against burglary is a lot more complex than for a home. There are many more factors to take into account when determining what’s appropriate.
Hopefully it goes without saying that identifying weak points in the existing security measures is the first task. Do you have low quality locks? Are there blind spots in the CCTV coverage? Are all potential entry points covered by the alarm system? Are the doors and windows in good repair? This should be common sense, and apply equally to domestic.
Another major factor for businesses, though, is the locality and environment where the business is located. It could be argued that this also applies domestically, and that’s correct up to a point. But it’s also true to say that the majority of homes are in areas where there a lots of other properties which overlook yours, and there is a lot of potential for passers-by to see any would-be burglars.
This is less true for commercial premises. Many are on the outskirts of town, on industrial estates which are cul-de-sacs, their own little bubble of activity during the day, but with nothing and no-one around at night. That makes it less likely a burglary will be detected and therefore increases the risk to the company.
Things get a little more subjective with a business property, though, when it comes to setting a budget for security expenditure.
The major factor here is to consider the consequences to the company if everything within their building is stolen – and I mean everything, stock, raw materials, machinery, computer systems, the lot – its value and the ease with which such goods can be disposed of.
Here’s an example. A big nationwide grocery wholesaler. Large premises with many thousands of pounds of stock inside, in a quiet industrial estate on the edge of town, backing onto a railway line. Easy to dispose of the stock, not a massive chance of being detected. A complete loss from this premises would obvoiusly be significant, but the company has numerous other warehouses around the country, so they can restock reasonably quickly. There is no danger, though, that the company would have to cease trading, it’s big enough to withstand the loss.
Contrast this with the small engineering works in the unit next door. The specialist machinery would be difficult to sell on, there’s only a limited market for such equipment. They hold minimal raw materials, buying what they need, when they need it, and once orders are complete, they’re shipped straight away. And yet, if they were to suffer a total loss, the consequences would almost certainly be catastrophic.
So who needs to spend more on security? There’s no straightforward answer.
If it’s your responsibility to ensure that your premises are secure, here’s our checklist of considerations:-
1) How strong are the existing security measures? How easy would it be for someone to break in tonight?
2) How likely is a burglary to be seen by a passer-by?
3) How likely are we to be a target? How easy it would it be for a burglar to sell anything that they take?
4) How serious are the consequences if we lost everything in a burglary tonight?
Evaluate this objectively, and you can then decide your budget priorities for your security.
There’s an old adage that says that you get what you pay for. Or the slightly more abrasive one that says that if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
And I don’t know of anyone who disagrees with it. After all, a brand new BMW costs more than a 10 year old Vauxhall, but given a free choice, who would plump for the Vauxhall? Who would choose a B&B in Skegness over a Caribbean cruise? (No offence meant, Skegness).
It comes down to how people view affordability and value for money.
So, here’s the thing.
What’s the value for money of good security measures, whether it’s at home or at work? Let me frame that question slightly differently. What would be the impact to you at home, or to your company at work, if the security measures put in place fail to keep out a burglar? If everything is stolen?
If your place of work was broken into, and all the stock, all the IT infrastructure, all the cash in the safe were stolen, could your company survive that? And if they couldn’t survive, wouldn’t that mean you’d be out of a job?
You occasionally see stories in the local paper where people are appealing for the return of a family heirloom – they don’t care about the DVDs and computer games, but please let them have their grandmother’s wedding ring back, because of its sentimental value.
Let me tell you now, those appeals very very rarely work. Two reasons:- (A) Burglars aren’t sentimental people, they just don’t care and (B) they’ve already sold it on.
And the situation could have been avoided by spending some money on home security. Burglars like the easy target. They’ll pick the house without an alarm over the house with an alarm (81% of burglars surveyed have explicitly said that).
But, you get what you pay for.
If a burglar has a choice between a home with a professionally installed alarm, and a DIY one, which will they choose?
A shop-bought system is unlikely to be monitored – in other words, it won’t communicate with a monitoring station or direct to the owner of the property, that the alarm system has been triggered. And who, these days, listens to a neighbour’s alarm going off and thinks “I must phone the police”? More likely, they think “What a nuisance, I hope that noise doesn’t go on for hours.” So, whilst DIY alarms are better than no alarm at all, they are less of a deterrent than a pro alarm.
Then what happens when the system goes wrong? No problem, really, you just go back to the shop where you bought it, and buy a replacement component. Apart from people who bought their system from Maplins, of course.
Ah, but Amazon are a huge company, they’re going nowhere. For sure that’s true, but Amazon don’t sell the vast majority of the goods that are bought on their website, most of it comes from far smaller companies, leveraging the power of Amazon’s marketplace platform.
Going off slightly at a tangent here, have you seen various news stories about farmers complaining that they can’t make a living selling milk? The supermarkets, being such large companies, are dictating the price they will pay, and it’s just not enough to be profitable. Some try to find other selling channels, whilst the unlucky ones carry on until their business fails. And then the supermarkets go and find someone else to buy from.
Hey, big news, the DIY superstore chains do exactly the same thing. The effect is that you can’t rely on them to stock spares for the system you bought there 4 or 5 years ago, either.
Now, I’m not saying that professional alarm installers don’t switch suppliers, and manufacturers don’t make products obsolete. Of course they do. But it’s in their interest to keep their customers happy, it’s in their interests to keep the same supplies available as much as possible, because it keeps life simpler for them.
And yes, this generally costs you more. But what’s the point of saving a few hundred pounds buying a system that in 4 or 5 years time isn’t as effective, or just plain doesn’t work at all and can’t be fixed? Whereas a professionally installed and maintained system is normally effective for 10, 15 years and longer, and it can be upgraded without having to replace every single component.
You get what you pay for.
I’ve been in the security industry for over 30 years. There aren’t many situations, issues, problems, that I haven’t come across, but time and again, I keep hearing people say the same thing over and over and over again.
So, what I want to do today is to bust these myths wide open. I want people to realise that it is worthwhile protecting their home. I want to get to a world where burglars and thieves give up, and go and do something else instead.
When I talk to people, whether it’s friends or strangers, the most common thing that they say to me is that they have nothing worth stealing.
They believe that because they don’t have Rolex watches, they don’t have 70” flatscreen TVs, and they certainly don’t have any Fabergé Eggs and diamond tiaras hanging around at home, they don’t need to worry about securing their home.
And they’re totally wrong.
Because very very few burglars select a house to burgle because they think they’re going to find a Rolex.
Whilst it’s true that the most common thing to be stolen in a burglary is jewellery, it doesn’t matter to a burglar what type of jewellery it is – if they find a Cartier necklace, fantastic, but if not a ring from somewhere more reasonably priced will do just as well. It’s all easily sellable – we’ve all seen the adverts claiming to give top prices for unwanted gold and silver. That’s the key thing for a burglar – how easy is it to sell what they take?
Loose cash is the another favorite item for burglars. With that, they don’t even have to worry about selling it on, it’s cold hard cash, that’s far better off in their pocket than in yours, as far as they’re concerned.
The other items, that I often hear that have been stolen in a burglary, are things like CDs, DVDs and DVD players, games consoles and their games. Again, these are all small items that can easily hidden in a bag or a big pocket of a coat, and easily moved on for a quick bit of cash.
Who amongst us can honestly, hand-on-heart, say that they have none of these items at home? Very few of us, I’ll wager. The vast majority of us have something worth stealing.
The second big myth for obliterating is the one where people say that if a burglar really wants to break in, then they’ll break in.
People are rather missing the point here. OK, it’s probably true that given enough time and a guarantee of not being disturbed, then they can get into any house. But burglars don’t have time, and they don’t have a guarantee of not being disturbed. They want to be in and out quickly. As quickly as they possibly can.
So, if they’re faced with a choice between a house with a window wide open, and one with all the windows shut, which house are they going to choose? The one with the easy way in, of course. The smart-alecs amongst you would say that they wouldn’t go for the house with the window wide-open, because obviously that means that someone is in. Well, no.
Astoundingly, according the Office for National Statistics, 58% of burglaries occur when someone is at home. 26% of burglary victims reported seeing the burglar in their home.
So let’s consider a burglar choosing between two houses, with all doors and windows closed. They still want the quickest and easiest way in and out. Put yourself in the burglar’s shoes. Which would you choose – the house with decent locks and an alarm, or the house without?
If you need any more evidence, have a look at this video.
Which brings me to my next myth – people regularly argue with me that having an alarm system, with the siren on the front of the house, advertises to a burglar that you have something worth protecting, and makes you more vulnerable.
Well, I’ve already demonstrated how everyone, or at least virtually everyone, has something that is worth stealing. There’s no difference, in that regard, between a home with a security system and a home without. And burglars know this.
So let’s look again at the situation from a burglar’s point of view. Which is the easiest house, which is most likely to provide the least risk? Clearly, it’s the house without the alarm which is the more vulnerable.
And statistics back this up. A recent survey revealed that 81% of convicted burglars admitted that they were deterred from targetting a house by the presence of an alarm siren on the wall of the home.
Now, I appreciate that people don’t want to think about their home security, they don’t want to consider the possibility that they might become a victim of burglary, they’d far rather be planning their next holiday, or what the kids are going to get for Christmas.
But until people do think about it, and people realise that taking relatively simple steps makes a massive difference, we’re not going to get my utopia of a burglary-free world.