For small businesses, crime can be especially devastating. The potential for the loss of profit and merchandise to overwhelm a business is high, not to mention the threat crimes like robbery pose to the physical safety of customers and employees.
While everyone knows that in bad times unemployment rises are closely followed by an increase in crime–particularly property crime and shoplifting–some in the sector may be surprised to learn that businesses can be just as vulnerable to security failures in boom times.
In good times ,companies grow, more money is invested in assets, stock and staff, creating a need for security systems that can monitor increased movements of cash, as well as electronic transactions, merchandise and people. Business owners must also consider changes to employment and shifting population trends in their city but more significantly, in their local area, when thinking about security.
Any number of factors at community level, particularly demographic and economic development, can have a serious flow-on affect to businesses, which are often the first to feel the impact of major trends. Urbanisation is another demographic trend that will drive greater security requirements; the greater human densities are, the greater the potential for crime. Newcomers to cities must find work, and if work is insufficient to meet their needs, crime is often the alternative.
Focus on loss prevention
Following the recent global financial crisis, businesses are placing greater importance on security and limiting losses from internal and external theft. According to the latest Retail Systems Research (RSR) benchmark report, Loss Prevention 2010: Retailers Battling Shrink in Tough Times, more retailers than ever reported that loss prevention was a growing priority for their businesses.
More than 40 percent of businesses surveyed said that difficult economic times resulted in a rise in theft, by both employees and shoplifters. In fact, the latest quarterly crime report released by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows that, over the 24 months to September 2009, shoplifting in the state topped a list of seven offences that were on the rise, growing by 5.8 percent. Clothing shops experienced the greatest increase in retail theft, with a rise of 30.3 percent.
Interestingly, the survey found that small retailers were more concerned with employee theft, which, in the main, involved cash rather than merchandise. The research showed that larger retailers trusted their workers more.
The report concluded that rather than using blind trust, larger retailers had made investments in technologies that helped uncover dishonest employees, resulting in a more trustworthy workforce.
Safeguarding your business
As criminologists and law enforcement agencies nationwide predict a rise in crime, business owners can help protect their investments by safeguarding against shoplifting, employee theft, break-ins, robbery, vandalism and fraud which affect most businesses in one form or another.
While it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of crime, business owners can help minimise risks by implementing a comprehensive security plan including physical security technology, thoroughly training employees in the security system, identifying security threats and troubleshooting potential weaknesses.
The suggested solution is to work with local police, stay up-to-date on the tools and techniques employed by large retailers, which can be adapted, and employ the services of a reputable security company for a thorough security assessment.
To help business owners build a barrier against crime, protect their livelihood and proactively deter potential thieves, ADT Security offers the following top security tips:
- Install an obvious monitored video surveillance system, which serves as both a powerful and obvious visual deterrent and helps in identifying possible criminals. Once cameras are installed, place security signs at points of entry to further publicise the presence of the cameras.
- Use a safe with a mechanism to make periodic cash drops during the day to minimise the amount of money kept on the premises. Immediately drop large bills in the safe to minimise loss.
- Conduct background checks to screen all employees before hiring, as a defence against internal theft.
- Train new staff about security and safety practices and follow up with regular checks to ensure rules are being followed, for example locking glass display cabinets and removing keys; checking that surveillance cameras are operating and recording.
- Reduce the size of banners on store windows to allow a clear view of activities inside the shop from the outside so potential shoplifters can be viewed from a number of points.
- Provide adequate interior and exterior lighting. Interior lighting should be visible to those outside. Exterior lighting should illuminate dark areas around buildings and car parks.
- Reduce the size of point of sale displays in the middle of the store, which can obstruct the view of staff around the shop floor.
- Instruct employees to be the first line of defence in loss prevention by greeting and acknowledging every customer who enters. Provide personal shopping assistance to as many customers as possible.
- Keep up to date with criminal activities affecting your local business area – for example, read local newspapers and stay in touch with the local police in relation to new crime trends such as credit card scams, store front ram raids and spates of robberies targeting particular types of merchandise. Upgrade security in response to these new security threats.
Advances in video surveillance
Businesses are increasingly recognising the effectiveness of video surveillance in detecting crime and enhancing safety, yet for some business owners the initial outlay can be prohibitive. The benefits of video surveillance are undeniable. While assisting in the identification of offenders, cameras placed in high exposure locations can also serve as a strong visual deterrent for shoplifters and dishonest employees. In enhancing the security and safety of a working environment for employees and visitors, a video surveillance system may also help some businesses meet their health and safety requirements.
With the correct equipment and web-enabled software, business owners can remotely monitor activity outside of business hours and when they are not on the premises.
The take out
By installing new surveillance technology designed specifically for small businesses, upgrading staff hiring and training methods, staying abreast of security threats in your area as well as removing weak spots within the physical environment, loss prevention is achievable for all businesses.
– Mark Norton is Managing Director, ADT Security Australia (www.adtsecurity.com.au), the world’s largest electronic security company.