Crime—burglary, robbery, vandalism, shoplifting, employee theft, and fraud—costs businesses billions of dollars each year. Crime can be particularly devastating to small businesses, who lose both customers and employees when crime and fear claim a neighborhood.
When small businesses are victims of crime, they often react by changing their hours of operation, raising their prices to cover their losses, relocating outside the community, or simply closing. Fear of crime isolates businesses, much like fear isolates individuals—and this isolation increases vulnerability to crime.
Helping small businesses reduce and prevent crime must be a community effort. Law enforcement can work with owners to improve security and design their spaces to reduce risk. Small businesses can join together in such efforts as Business Watch to alert each other to crime patterns and suspicious activities. They can help young people in the community learn job-seeking skills and give them jobs, when possible.
Finally, businesses must reach out to others—law enforcement, civic groups, schools, churches, youth groups—to fight violence, drugs, and other crime and create a safer community for all.
Laying a Foundation
Take a hard look at your business—its physical layout, employees, hiring practices, and overall security. Assess its vulnerability to all kinds of crime, from burglary to embezzlement. Some basic prevention principles include:
Provide training for all employees—including cleaning staff — so they are familiar with security procedures and know your expectations.
Use good locks, safes, and alarm systems. If you have questions, seek the help of law enforcement. Keep detailed, up-to-date records. Store back-up copies off the premises. If you are ever victimized, you can assess losses more easily and provide useful information for law enforcement investigations.
Establish and enforce clear policies about employee theft, employee substance abuse, crime reporting, opening and closing the business, and other security procedures. Mark equipment—registers, adding machines, calculators, computers, typewriters—with an identification number (for example, tax identification or license number). Post the Operation Identification warning sticker in your store-front window. Keep a record of all identification numbers off the premises with other important records. Consider the cost of each security improvement you make against the potential savings through loss reduction. Remember to assess the impact on employees and customers.
Crimes against businesses are usually crimes of opportunity. Failure to take good security precautions invites crime into a business.
|The above is an excerpt adapted from the article,”Small Business Crime Prevention.” For more information, please visit www.lapdonline.org.