An Ounce of Crime Prevention

Crime can happen anywhere, including your small business.

Have you taken a hard look at your building’s security—or are you waiting for a thief to take advantage of your blind spots? Thinking Bigger Business spoke with Officer Bill Koehn of the Overland Park Police Department about ways small businesses can protect themselves and their customers.

“You don’t have to wait until after a burglary to do it,” Koehn said.

Free Surveillance

The smartest companies make it easy for customers and employees to notice criminal activity.

Many Starbucks locations place their seating so customers will naturally be looking out the store’s windows—which makes it much easier for them to notice a thief breaking into cars. QuikTrip is another great example. Its locations have cashier stands that are higher than anything else in the store, giving employees a better view of shoplifters.

This doesn’t necessarily require a huge renovation; it can be as simple as keeping your front window clear of posters and other visual clutter. Some stores will set up a simple outdoor break area behind their building. Your employees can enjoy the fresh air while also keeping an eye out for problems.

Bright Ideas

Lighting is one of the best investments you can make in securing your building, but there’s a fine line you have to walk. Too much, and you’ll draw complaints from neighbors. Not enough, and customers won’t feel safe walking to their cars at night.

Koehn recommends using motion-detecting lights on the sides and back of a building. If someone is lurking around your premises, neighbors will be more likely to notice the lights suddenly popping on than if the lights are always on.

Be sure to get halogen or incandescent bulbs, though—fluorescents won’t be bright enough to attract attention.

Make Sure Your Team Members Are Really on Your Team

Employees can either be your first line of defense against crime—or a way for criminals to get access to your building.

Running background checks on job applicants is crucial, he said. There have been cases where criminals got jobs simply so they could hide merchandise in the store’s garbage and sneak it out of the building.

Educate employees about good security practices—for example, not talking with friends or family about sensitive company information, such as which days you have huge amounts of cash on hand. (Your office manager is a good egg, but her deadbeat cousin might not be.) And let workers know they have a responsibility to report any theft by coworkers.

Employees can be a major help in spotting troublemakers. There’s a reason why most Walmarts have a greeter who meets every person walking through their doors.

“Criminals are just like little kids,” Koehn said. “They can’t look at you.”

If you want to learn more about securing your workplace, check with your local police department to see if it offers security surveys. Overland Park and Kansas City, Mo., both do. An officer will visit your building, point out possible problems and recommend solutions.