Small Business Crime Prevention

Crime 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 of the community, or simply closing. Fear of crime isolates businesses 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 efforts to alert each other to crime patterns and suspicious activities.

Begin with the Basics

Take the time to make an overall evaluation of your building, facilities, employees, and practices. No one knows your business better than you do. Take the time to ask yourself where you might be vulnerable in any of these areas and take some corrective steps. Consider some of these basic principles:

  • Provide training for all employees, including cleaning staff, so they are familiar with security procedures and know your expectations. Document this training and make sure everyone receives exactly the same instructions. This makes it much easier to identify problems later on if employees are deviating from your plan.
  • Use good locks, safes, and alarm systems.
  • Keep detailed, up-to-date records. Never store all records on the premises; always have a backup. This information is invaluable in assessing loss and for investigative purposes later.
  • Establish and enforce clear policies such as the following, and again, consider documenting this in writing with the employee so that action may be taken later on if your wishes aren't being respected:
    • Crime reporting
    • Employee substance abuse
    • Employee theft
    • Opening and closing of the business
    • Any other security procedures
  • Mark all of your equipment with a unique identifying mark or number. Although some equipment, such as cash registers, computers, or typewriters have their own serial number, don't rely on these. Those numbers can be easily removed.
  • Keep a record of all equipment with serial numbers and identification marks off-premises.
  • Consider the costs of security improvements against potential savings through loss reduction. You might be surprised how affordable some equipment can be. Video surveillance for instance can be very reasonable and works well to prevent employee theft, vandalism, and frivolous claims and lawsuits against the business. It also provides excellent information to law enforcement if the situation requires their involvement.