Preventing Theft Inside and Out

Feb. 26, 2018

How safe are your building's most valuable assets? Don't let your facility become a target for theft.

How safe are your building’s most valuable assets? You may be vulnerable to theft, whether that’s coming from burglars infiltrating from outside or an employee stealing from inside. You’ve worked hard to run your building efficiently and cost-effectively, so don’t let it become a target for theft. Protect your assets with common-sense strategies.

Who Is at Risk?

Determine your facility’s susceptibility to theft by taking an honest look at what might appeal to a perpetrator. Whether the thief is a burglar or an employee, the items most likely to be stolen are valuable and relatively small – think laptops, printer cartridges or mobile devices, explains Tom Noble, Vice President of Security at Quest Consultants. Copper and other metals with a high resale value are also a high priority.

“A bigger problem for some facilities is that the vandalism aspect is going to be destructive,” Noble says. “If they break water pipes or try to steal the copper piping from a refrigeration or air conditioning system, you can have thousands of dollars of damage done over a few hundred dollars worth of copper.”

Noble recommends putting yourself in the thief’s position and looking at your facility to see what you could steal and how. 

“You’re looking for vulnerabilities, like where there might be dead spots for a camera or places where someone could hide,” Noble adds. “See if the contacts on doors and windows are worn or old and where they might not be functioning. Determine if the camera system is working. I examined the perimeter of one location and they had very nice cameras on the perimeter, but the access points for the cameras were in an unlocked box that was readily accessible from the outside of the building, which meant that I could go and disconnect them and you’d only see a black screen. Look at what you have and how to protect it.”

Glass is a red flag that your business is easy to infiltrate, adds John Bocker, NSSF Security Consultant Team Member and Managing Director at JB Group, LLC, a business security and strategy consultancy. Buildings with large windows or glass curtainwall need to take extra steps to ensure safety, like shoring up the glass with additional protection.

“I’ve investigated over 300 burglaries in the last 30 years, and it always comes down to how much you have between you and the bad guy,” Bocker explains. “All cameras and alarms do is tell you when something happened and who may have done it. They don’t prevent the criminal from gaining entry. How many layers of protection are between what you value most and the intruder?”

Investigate Indoor Protection

Start fortifying your building against theft by identifying your high-value items and making sure they’re covered with security cameras, Noble recommends. 

“These should be not just cameras that give an overview of the area, but cameras with a sufficient resolution that you can make out a face and recognize a person,” Noble adds. “You’ve probably seen it on TV – even some bank security cameras create absolutely worthless photographs. You want a picture that’s going to let you identify the person. You also want to have coverage at the entrance and exit and good lighting so that you’ll be able to capture the person in there.”

Good cameras will also help protect against internal theft, Noble says. If building occupants know there are high resolution cameras covering your valuable items, they’re less likely to try to steal anything. 

“Make sure you have a policy in place that if any employee is caught stealing anything, regardless of how large or small it is, they’re immediately terminated,” Noble suggests. “Work with the HR department to make sure that policy is well-known.”

Building occupants should also be aware of their role in protecting the building’s assets, Bocker says. Make it clear that no one should leave doors propped open, even just for the length of a smoke break, nor should they allow anyone to accompany them into the building who doesn’t have his or her own credentials. 

Those credentials are also an opportunity for building protection against employee theft, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says. If you issue individual access codes or similarly customized passes, you can see exactly who has entered a space around the time of a theft.

Optimize Outdoor Deterrents

On the exterior of your building, pay close attention to visual clues that will communicate to potential thieves that your building is constantly monitored and not worth the hassle of a break-in. Look for bushes around the perimeter that could obscure windows or offer hiding places, Noble says. If a patrol unit happens to be passing by, you want them to be able to spot a crime in progress instead of driving past because your landscaping offers a refuge to the person trying to infiltrate your building.

Entrances and large banks of windows should have sturdy security bollards installed within 40 inches of each other to prevent vehicles from driving into your building, Bocker adds. 

Alternatively, some convention centers and stadiums are opting to replace the bollards with planters that provide the same protection in a more aesthetically pleasing package.

Your exterior protection should also include some form of concealment for any external wiring, such as cable conduits, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says. Burglars will cut wires on the outside of your building to try to disable your security and phone communications.

Make sure you’re also paying as much attention to camera coverage on the outside as you are on the inside. A central monitoring system that also allows your staff to monitor surveillance cameras remotely will be more helpful than either of those capabilities alone, Noble explains.

“Normally, the way a central monitoring system works is that they’ll try to reach the owner before they call the police, and that can slow things down. Someone who is looking for high-value small items can wipe out the whole place in that time,” Noble says. “You’re going to be able to react quicker than a monitoring system trying to get ahold of you and then calling the police afterward. If an alert goes to your smartphone or tablet, you can look at it and say, ‘Those aren’t my people, I’m calling the police.’”

Ensure that your indoor and outdoor security features work together to deter and delay criminals by obtaining a security review from a third-party consultant, Bocker recommends. (See “Get a Security Review” below.) An extra pair of eyes can spot vulnerabilities and opportunities you might miss, and many of the consultant’s recommendations will rely on making it clear that your building is not an appealing target and anyone approaching it with criminal intent will be caught. 

“Go back to the basic features of security,” says Bocker. “Don’t look like a target and don’t try to become a target.” 

Janelle Penny [email protected] is Senior Editor of BUILDINGS.

About the Author

Janelle Penny | Editor-in-Chief at BUILDINGS

Janelle Penny has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with a special emphasis on covering facilities management. She aims to deliver practical, actionable content for facilities professionals.

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