Violent crime against business - What can we do?

18 June 2015

In the wake of an apparent upturn in serious violent crime across the Greater Manchester area, we are asking this week what can we as business do to protect ourselves? Police cuts, fewer visible beat cops, and poor security all play a big role in violent crimes against business in 2015.

According to www.ukcrimestats.com in the Greater Manchester Police area for Jan-Apr 2015 there were nearly 1200 recorded Robberies, 446 weapons related crimes and for the year May 2014-Apr 2015 nearly 15000 yes FIFTEEN THOUSAND reports of shoplifting. Whilst this must have a huge financial cost on businesses across the region the effect on employers and employees is largely immeasurable.

So what can businesses do, or should that be what aren't businesses doing to protect themselves, their employees and their stock or even lost time? A quick analysis of a more recent incident, as recent as just over a week ago.

From www.gmp.police.uk - At around 12.20pm  on Wednesday 10th June 2015, four men dressed in dark clothing and balaclavas approached David M Robinson Ltd jewellers on Railway Street, Altrincham and used a battering ram to break through the security door. They pushed the shop’s security guard into the shop and ordered him to lie on the ground, which he did.

One of the men then used a metal pole to prevent security shutters from closing, while two others entered the shop and used crowbars to smash glass cabinets and place watches worth hundreds of thousands of pounds into a bag held by a third man.

The fourth offender then dislodged and activated the smoke cloak security system from the wall, and the four men fled into a black Land Rover, which sped away.

On the face of things it would seem that the shop had made adequate provision to prevent any likely attack on the premises. They had security shutters, a security guard, Smoke Cloak systems and alarms all in place yet they were still violently robbed with the attackers making away with £000,000’s of jewellery and watches. 

What can we surmise from this incident and others, that have occurred all over the city? Few of these crimes are opportunistic, they have had some level of planning before they have been conducted, reconnaissance on layouts, location of CCTV, interest of the security guards and staff, type of access control, escape routes, police response times, alarm response procedures, hostile surveillance of staff to name a few. 

Shops shouldn't have to have the same levels of security as a Prison and in some cases it would be impractical or cost prohibitive. If it is measured against the loss in goods, time and custom it very quickly becomes more affordable, and if under constant review can be managed affordably. We live in a fantastic city that has an often violent underbelly. Security should never be under estimated and nor should the people it is there to deter.

If we break down the common elements of typical security measures in place and see if they are adequate in helping to prevent these from occurring and if not how can we improve upon them.

CCTV - Images from the store mentioned in the earlier article were of reasonable resolution but not HD quality. Thus making any potential identification of the perpetrators very difficult. CCTV systems are relatively inexpensive and should be as up to date as possible. Get an independent Security provider to conduct a CCTV survey and ensure you have adequate coverage. Blindspots, poor imagery, outdated equipment all make the system largely redundant if they don't do what you want them to do. Alarm - Is it linked to the police or alarm response? Is it linked to anyone at all? If you have a key holder, what is their response time, and when did you last test the alarm, change the codes and test the response of the security provider or key holder? What are your procedures for out of hours alarms? Do you even have one? Think Hatton Garden robbery? If any one of these doesn't work as advertised then it is useless. Access Control - Electronic doors are great to slow or restrict access but its very easy to tailgate behind someone and then that unveiled person is now on your premises. Consider double portcullis doors, turnstiles, one person gates, all in common use. Security shutters, how are they deployed, are they effective? What about in loading bays or staff access points? Physical Security - Take a look at the Security guard, is he alert?, responsive?, well turned out?, looking professional?. Is he really a deterrent? or is he there as a insurance requirement? If you were paid minimum wage or relatively poorly to be the line of defence between a determined armed robber and the premises and stock, you’d quickly lie down and let them help themselves. Why bother having one if they are not motivated or trained adequately?

This is by no means exhaustive and certainly not intended to reflect on the owner and employees of the store mentioned. It does however go to show that you can have all of these seemingly great security precautions in place, but if there is a weak link in any one of them then should the worst happen you can only expect one result.

To coin a phrase from a previous employ “Time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted”, criminals will conduct reconnaissance on an intended target for days if not weeks before. They will be looking where your cameras are, alarm sensors, types of shutters, access points, alert state of the security guard and staff? 

If you have a cohesive well practised security plan that everyone is drilled in and understands then you become the hard target. If you understand the threats and are diligent, the next time a criminal considers taking your business on, they will think twice, instead they will look for the weaker target that they think they can get in and out with out being challenged, identified and caught.

Having a comprehensive security survey completed can make a big difference in how you proceed in the future. It is not just an investment in your business, it is an investment in your staff, and will go a long way to making sure your business isn't the next headline for all the wrong reasons.

Discreet Help are a bespoke Security and Risk Management company based in Manchester and serving the UK.