As much as we’d like to think bad things don’t happen to good people (and their businesses), that’s simply not the way the world works. Crime strikes both online businesses and brick-and-mortar establishments every day—small and large. Actually, it happens to small businesses more often than you’d think. About 24% of small business owners in one survey said they had not reported a crime that had occurred at their business. Many felt it wasn’t worth the hassle, or that nothing would be done to prosecute the perpetrator.
While it’s still important for business owners to prevent and report crime at their establishments, the good news is that crime rates have dropped overall. Violent crime dropped by 49% from 1990-2015, and property crime by 51%. Cybercrime is a new and growing threat that small businesses have to contend with, but that doesn’t mean crime has stopped at brick-and-mortar stores. If you’re a small business owner operating out of a physical store, here are a few tips for preventing crime at your store.
1. Improve Security
Keeping your employees and customers safe should be your number one priority. Sturdy locks, alarm systems, and security cameras are all crime deterrents that can help keep everyone sage. A “panic button” will allow your employees to call for help at the touch of a button if needed, which offers both practicality and peace of mind. Be sure to train all employees on what to do in the event of a burglary, vandalism, or suspicious persons.
2. Focus on Layout & Cleanliness
Keeping your storefront and internal displays immaculate is a good way to help prevent theft and vandalism. Broken signage, dirty windows, graffiti, and other signs of neglect attract crime, and a disorganized interior makes it easier for shoplifters to escape undetected. Keep everything clean, well-lit, and in good repair. Mirrors can make it easier for your employees to detect shoplifting, and a smart layout can prevent “blind spots” shoplifters use to stash away goods. Keeping your front windows clear and unobstructed will deter criminals, since it’s easier to see what’s going on inside.
3. Get to Know Your Neighbors
Neighbors can be a fantastic ally when it comes to preventing crime in your neighborhood. Some small business communities have set up a formal “watch” while others just know to keep an eye out for suspicious activity. Your neighboring businesses might notice something you miss and vice versa. Having these kinds of relationships keeps everyone safer.
You should also pay attention to what’s happening in your neighborhood. If you notice a large number of homeless people, see if there’s any way you and the small businesses around you can help. About one third of the homeless population suffers from untreated mental illness, and helping out wherever you can assists individuals affected by homelessness and mental illnesses and makes the neighborhood as a whole safer and more supportive.
4. Don’t Follow Patterns
It’s always safest to keep only small amounts of cash on hand and to use a timed safe as a theft deterrent. When you make deposits at the bank, do so at different times of day, so that anyone who might be trying to learn your habits won’t be able to tell when you’re planning to take cash out of the safe.
5. Vet Your Employees
It’s an unfortunate truth that employees often engage in theft and other illegal activities. While it’s not possible to prevent every instance of internal criminal behavior, there are some steps you can take. First, vet each of your new employees carefully, performing a background check and looking into their digital history. You should also have clear policies and expectations, and be consistent about enforcing them.
6. Engage with Law Enforcement
These days, law enforcement has more information than ever when it comes to crime trends and statistics. If you haven’t already, get in touch with your local law enforcement agency to get advice for preventing crime at your business and how to respond should a robbery occur.
7. Immediately Report Crimes that Occur
Remember how about one quarter of small business owners failed to report crime at their small business? Without that accurate reporting, law enforcement won’t know that more resources are needed in certain areas. If you fail to report a crime, you won’t get the support you need, and you may be putting yourself, your employees, and your customers at risk. If your business is a target of any crime, big or small, report it right away.