NEWS

ASIS Report Tackles Preventing Burglaries at Businesses

By Matthew Harwood

While burglary rates continue to slide internationally, the crime continues to victimize businesses disproportionately despite simple and cost-effective ways to protect shops and facilities, according to a new CRISP report from the ASIS Foundation.

"Research shows that large reductions can be achieved in burglary incidents and losses through interventions that are often simple and costeffective," writes the report's author Tim Prenzler, Ph.D., chief investigator at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security. "Nonetheless, a large proportion of the owners and managers of facilities are reluctant to invest in security."

And this doesn't make sense, considering thieves target businesses disproportionately over homes. Businesses struck by burglars also tend to get hit again and again, a phenomenon known as repeat victimization. One U.K. study quoted in the report found that 3.4 percent of non-residential premises were victimized twice or more compared to 0.2 percent of homes.

Typically, most burglars enter by forcing a window or a door open, regardless of the target. Business owners and managers naturally have more to deal with than just their sense of violation when burglaries occur. The average cost of a burglary came to $5,209 in 2008, according to the U.S. National Retail Security Survey. Yet sometimes a burglary can deliver a knock-out blow to a small business if important tools or records are stolen.

The report explains that burglary became a bigger problem in the United States because of the post-World War II economic boom and its social and cultural impact.

Rapid industrialization put an increasing number of light-weight, high-value goods into stores and homes and these became prime targets for thieves. Access to cars increased offender mobility and the ability to transport larger stolen items. The increase in suitable targets was accompanied by large declines in guardianship. As couples had fewer children, women entered the workforce in greater numbers, and elderly people settled in retirement homes, there were more homes unguarded for longer periods. There was also a shift in residential patterns away from co-location with factories and retail outlets. Empty suburbs during the day, and empty commercial and industrial districts at night, presented a smorgasbord of burglary opportunities.

Young males predominately commit burglaries with approximately 80 percent being fellows between the ages of 15 and 25. The major motivations seem to be "drugs, alcohol, and conspicuous consumption." The bright side: their age and their reasons for committing such crimes makes most burglars easy to deter, the report states.

While the report notes social prevention programs—like methadone programs—and police initiatives—like crime prevention partnerships—can decrease burglary rates, place managers can do a lot more to prevent burglary.

"There is now a well-established literature on security management that integrates the scientific knowledge of situation crime prevention with principles derived from the experience of security practitioners," writes Prenzler. The conventional three-part security management model combines conducting timely and comprehensive risk assessments, installing layered security measures, and finally testing the security system regularly. 

But if the model is to be effective, the report adds, the whole business enterprise needs to be involved, from the owners and managers down to the janitors.


♦ ASIS Foundation's CRISP reports function as backgrounders that review the existing scientific research on a subject and then connect that information to pragmatic security practices. (To review past reports, take a look here.)

♦ Photo by Johnny Grim/Flickr

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