Violence is a part of daily life and no matter how safe you think your business is, it could happen to you. How high is your risk? Ask yourself the following questions. Every time you answer yes, your risk factor goes up a notch.
Do you deal in cash?
If you deal in cash, don’t allow it to accumulate on the property. Get it into the bank as soon as possible. Vary the times and days you go to the bank with cash and don’t make it a big announcement. Being predictable or making the event public, in this situation, could set you up to be robbed on your way to the bank.
Does your business have uncontrolled access and entry to parking lots and buildings?
Secure access to the building, through unmonitored doors, by way of key cards or exit only type doors. If you can’t restrict access, WORKING security cameras and regular patrols of the parking lot and building can act as deterrents. Ask the local police department to make an occasional swing through the parking lot. (You will note that I capitalized the word WORKING in association with security cameras. Some businesses think it is enough to put up a camera and people will think it works. Criminals are not so dumb and you might be surprised how many of your employees know they don’t work and tell their friends they don’t work.)
Have any employees complained of assault or harassment?
As an employer, you should take seriously any complaint of harassment or assault be it between employees or between employees and customers. If you fail to take action to resolve the situation and provide adequate protection for your employees and customers, you may find yourself being held responsible for a negative outcome. If you can’t resolve it yourself, you may need to engage the police-discreetly of course.
Has crime occurred in your immediate area?
If crime has already occurred in your immediate area, there is no reason to think it won’t visit you, if you allow yourself to be a target. Make your business unattractive to crime.
Do you operate your business into the late evening or after dark?
Criminals often wait for opportune moments such as times when there is little activity or after dark. Take extra precautions during these times. Keep all but the main door unlocked. Limit access to back office areas. Make sure both the interior and exterior are well lit. Invite the local patrol officer over for a fresh cup of coffee.
Have there been any reports of loitering on or near your business?
Never dismiss loitering as threat. Loitering can be about drug deals, drinking, boredom or crime preparation. Loiterers put your business, your customers and your employees at risk. Have the police run them off. If you have large bushes around your property, you may want to consider trimming the lower 12 -18 inches of foliage off the bottoms. This makes it harder for individuals to “hide in the bushes” and watch your business, your customers and your employees. It also makes it harder for vagrants to sleep in the bushes undetected. Take a walk around your business and look for potential hiding places.
Have any employees (past or present) made threats?
Terminated employees or employees who are unhappy, may make threats against other employees or your business. Don’t take these threats lightly. Individuals who are under stress from job loss or dissatisfaction are potential candidates for violence. (See the article Six Precursors To Deadly Violence.) A bit more vigilance may be required to ward off the carrying out of a threat.
Are there signs that drinking is taking place on or near your business?
Finding empty beer or liquor containers in places other than those that might have been thrown out of a passing car should trigger investigation. This evidence of drinking may be from loiterers or it may be from employees. If you have security cameras, you may want to review the footage or adjust the camera to focus on specific areas. Don’t tell employees if you are changing camera angles or positions. This defeats the purpose.
Have there been reports of drug use (by employees or others) on or near your business?
The world we live in is full of drugs and the drug business, despite this country’s war on drugs, is booming. An individual on drugs or selling drugs is not an individual you want anywhere near your business. While you are out patrolling the grounds looking for signs of drinking, look for drug paraphernalia such as empty quarter size plastic bags, plastic bags that have light colored dust inside them and used hypodermic needles. If you believe your business has a problem with drugs, it is in your best interest to consult with your local drug enforcement task force. It is better to work with them, discreetly, to eliminate the problem than it would be to have your business name splashed across the front page of the local newspaper-“Drug Bust Made At The XYZ Company Loading Dock.” You have worked to acquire your reputation, but it can be gone in 60 seconds.
If you choose to ignore potentially dangerous activity, keep in mind this quote from the California Jury Instruction 8.23, “The proprietor of a business establishment owes a duty of care…This duty of care requires the proprietor to exercise reasonable care to discover whether accidental, negligent or intentionally harmful acts of third persons are occurring or are likely to occur on the business premises” (Meadows, 2004).
If you were able to answer no to all these questions, your business is at lower risk than others, but it does not mean you should sit back and not worry. Violence can occur anywhere, anytime. Just be sure you routinely revisit your existing security for functionality, train your employees in what to look for and what to report and stay aware of activity in your immediate area. If you think it could never happen, you are just being naive.