Graffiti, broken windows, damaged doors, pulled fire alarms, equipment theft, arson, squatters, property defacement, landscape sabotage – no matter its form or intention, vandalism is an unsightly mess and an unnecessary expense.
A single instance of vandalism acts like a ripple in a pond, having greater implications than the initial event. Vandalism can increase your area’s crime rate, contribute to neighborhood blight, decrease your property value, result in repeated maintenance, incur repair costs, cause delays to construction projects, and inhibit leasing agreements.
“You can put a dollar figure on what it will take to repair or renovate an act of vandalism, but how do you put a price on missing tenant rent, delays to construction schedules, or lost revenue traction?” asks Jim O’Brien, general manager for Vacant Property Specialists (VPS), a security management firm. “These opportunity costs are hard to measure but are a real cost nonetheless.”
Whether deliberate or unintentional, vandalism can undermine your company’s image and business message. You also don’t want it to shake your employees’ confidence in the building’s safety, says Randy Montelius, vice president of engineering for Communications Engineering Company (CEC).
While no building is immune to willful destruction, you can effectively reduce your risk by taking preventive measures. Protect your assets by implementing these three steps.
1) Identify Weaknesses
Anticipate the reasons your property could be vandalized. Can your business or research practices be viewed as questionable by protesters? Is your property frequented by groups that will inflict malicious destruction for fun?
Once you identify the groups likely to target your building, assess your facility from the eyes of a vandal. Look for weak perimeter points, unlit areas good for hiding, architectural features ideal for defacement, and valuable equipment prime for stealing. By creating a list of vulnerable areas, you can outline how to improve your security.
2) Deter and Deflect
“Vandalism occurs when vandals think they can get away with it,” Montelius says. “If there’s inadequate lighting, open entrances, or no barriers, it’s an open invitation.”
Buildings that don’t have visible surveillance monitoring or are lax about visitor management are also exposed. Even something as simple as unkempt landscaping could send the message that the building isn’t under a watchful eye.
There are a number of strategies you can use to deter and deflect vandals. Regardless of your building setup, you need to create physical and psychological barriers.
“Following CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) principles can stop criminal acts with the built environment‘s design,” advises Montelius. “Areas can be designated as public, semi-private, or private using a physical or symbolic division between these zones.”
Visual security clues are major deterrents, such as the presence of security guards, noticeable security cameras, and surveillance signage.
Physical and technological barriers can also keep ill intentions at bay. Fences, gates, ID card access, strategic lighting, protective landscaping, and limited access points all make it difficult to waltz onto your property, says Montelius.
Security alarms should round out these practices to ensure proper notification of a disturbance.
3) Respond Immediately
In the event of vandalism, swift action is one of your greatest allies. A primary goal of vandals is to have their destruction put on display. Remove this satisfaction by immediately wiping out evidence of their acts, says O’Brien.
“Make sure you also communicate with building occupants,” recommends Montelius. ”Let them know what happened and what’s being done to resolve it.”
Lastly, have procedures in place that allow you to reroute maintenance crew for cleanup, retain a restoration company to repair damaged items, and ensure that your security force can be temporarily increased. You should also completely inspect the building for overlooked damage, O’Brien stresses.
Accounting for criminal acts should be part of your emergency response plan. While it may not endanger life safety, you need to have a plan of action in place so vandalism doesn’t impact your business continuity.
Jennie Morton (firstname.lastname@example.org) is associate editor of BUILDINGS.