Protecting your business

Theft and vandalism crimes targeted at business premises are, unfortunately, quite common. Government research revealed that based on interviews with 4,017 respondents, 9.2 million crimes were encountered by UK businesses across manufacturing, wholesale and retail, transportation and storage, and accommodation and food industries in 2012 alone.

Of these, a staggering 7.7 million crimes were committed against businesses in the retail sector – a figure driven largely by shoplifting offences. The industry encountered a total of 19,701 crimes per 1,000 premises – or approximately 20 crimes each per annum.

In comparison, the manufacturing and transportation industries face a much lower incident rate – but the value of loss to the business is likely to be much greater. For instance, 14% of manufacturing companies encountered metal theft. Likewise, the number of vehicle-related thefts within transportation and storage is over five times higher than any other sector.

In any industry, theft can eat away at profits and even result in an operating loss. The best way to deal with it is to take measures to prevent it happening in the first place.

Standard safety procedure

To reduce the risk of being caught out, there are a number of ‘standard’ safety procedures that should be implemented within any business environment. These include:

Minimising the amount of cash left on the property, particularly over weekends and holidays like Christmas and Easter

  • Visiting the premises regularly when it is closed for an extended period. As well as giving you an opportunity to pick up the mail etc., this might also deter any criminals who have been keeping an eye on the property because they think it’s not in use during holiday periods
  • Checking for signs of disturbance around the property regularly, just in case somebody has tried their luck and is planning on coming back
  • Regularly testing security alarms and changing the PIN code from time to time, as well as keeping an eye on the door and window locks to make sure the whole place is fully secured when locking up
  • Appointing a security company that is fully aware of office hours so that it can be on high alert for any disturbances. Properties without an alarm system are three times more likely to be targeted for a burglary than those with one
  • Ensuring you have valid insurance and keeping an inventory of all your company’s equipment, as this will help you to calculate your claim accurately if something does happen
  • Be aware of vulnerable times

Believe it or not, Hallowe’en can increase the occurrence of criminal activity by as much as 50 per cent. That’s according to security specialists, Netwatch, who provide remote visual surveillance systems to businesses, and monitor 25,000 cameras across 2,500 properties around the world

Crime rates are also believed to be elevated through the summer months (starting in April) than at the start of the year. In 2012, Netwatch recorded a total of 514 incidents in April in contrast to 217 the previous January.

And it isn’t just times of the year that can leave a business more susceptible to crime. Research indicates that intruders are gradually becoming braver, with a steady increase in burglaries occurring between the hours of 4pm and 9pm rather than late at night. It’s also worth bearing in mind that almost half of all crimes committed against business properties occur at the weekend.

Exercise vigilance

Knowing when criminals are operating can help businesses to be vigilant at the times that they’re most likely to strike. However, it’s good practice to exercise caution at all times. Within the business, all staff should recognise when equipment is valuable and therefore attractive to criminals and should be educated about the importance of security.

Ensuring that valuable equipment is locked away out of office hours and that the blinds are closed and nothing valuable is left on display might help to deter criminal activity. Likewise, all staff should be aware of the importance of locking up properly and setting the alarms at the end of the working day. If staff are party to the premises’ alarm codes, make sure that they realise the importance of keeping these confidential and try to change them from time to time – this is particularly important if your business has a high turnover of staff.

Take heed from past mistakes

If you have been unfortunate enough to encounter a break-in, don’t miss the opportunity to take lessons from it. Take note of how the intruder broke in and address any weaknesses. Likewise, try to identify why they chose your business above others in the area. Do you have less security or surveillance? Or more equipment on show? How could you address this to deter it from happening again?

I’ve been robbed – what do I do next?

If you arrive at the premises and can see there’s been a break-in, dial 999 before doing anything else. If you have already entered the building and discovered there’s been a break-in, get out of the building and do the same. There are two reasons for this:

  • The intruder might still be inside or the break-in may have caused structural damage and you need to remove yourself from harm’s way
  • You need to avoid disturbing the scene as much as you possibly can. The last thing you want is to destroy a piece of vital evidence. If you have touched or moved anything, keep a note of it so you can tell the police as soon as they arrive

Finally, once the police have arrived and given the go-ahead, take photos of the scene and any damage before you start clearing up. Make a note of exactly what has been damaged or stolen and, if possible, dig out the serial numbers or receipts associated with this equipment.

You are then ready to contact your insurance provider.

Am I covered for theft?

If you find your company has been the victim of theft, your ‘business equipment insurance’ should cover the cost of replacement equipment and tools. However, this is usually offered as an optional extra to be added to your mandatory business insurance policy, which covers just professional indemnity and public liability. If you haven’t taken this option then you won’t be covered for the stolen goods.

The rates charged for business equipment insurance are formulated based on the following criteria:

  • Geographical location of your business
  • Value of materials kept on-site (at risk)
  • Replacement value of contents
  • Turnover and profit of the business

Therefore if you’re in an area likely to be targeted by criminals (central London for example) and you have a great deal of costly equipment on-site, then you will end up paying more than a business owner operating on a sleepy suburban street with minimal equipment. However, theft from businesses is still quite prevalent in the UK, so it’s well worth taking the extra insurance for peace of mind.