Retail and Business Crime
Retail crime constitutes a significant proportion of
the nationally recorded crime statistics. Out of a
total of 4.5 million offences in the 12 months ending
March 1998, 273,509 were related to theft from shops.
All crime is important, both financially and at a
personal level. Business and retail crime is no
What can you do about it?
Slow them down...
Time is a key factor in most burglaries. Burglars
will put themselves at risk of being caught for as
little time as possible. For them the risks are
highest when they are conspicuous to passers-by or in
the short time they have to complete their burglary
after a burglar alarm has gone off. To prevent
burglaries effectively, you should delay burglars at
these times for as long as possible in order to make
the risk seem unacceptable. The best way to do this is
to put your resources into more than one of the types
or levels of physical protection advised in this
booklet – the more barriers you create, the more you
will slow them down.
Train your staff...
You need full support from your staff. Teach them
about the burglary prevention measures you have taken,
and the correct use of any equipment you have
Reporting suspicious circumstances...
Explain to staff the importance, for example, of
keeping a watchful eye for suspicious people or
vehicles to prevent people ‘casing’your premises.
Get them involved...
You can develop their commitment to crime prevention
by asking their opinions and ideas about the measures
you are taking or propose to take.
Above all, you should build key security into your
staff training programme. Ensure that only specially
selected staff have access to certain keys or
combination locks, and that keys to secure areas are
not left within the shop. Selected staff or managers
must thoroughly understand their responsibilities for
locking and securing fastenings on windows and doors,
cabinets, internal offices where cash may be held,
safes, rooflights and any other exits.
Help from your crime prevention officer...
Your local crime prevention officer will be able to
develop your awareness and knowledge about suitable
crime prevention measures for your shop. He or she can
also advise you about vetting new staff to reduce the
risk of burglaries and other retail crimes being
organised or assisted from within.
Look after stock and cash...
Removing high value goods from window displays
You can protect portable high value goods such as
jewellery or camcorders by removing them from display
windows overnight, and locking them in a safe, or a
secure room or cage. But be aware of the drawbacks –
the extra workload on you and your staff, and the
likelihood that empty windows will attract less window
shopping and therefore less ‘informal’ policing.
(Having more people around increases the chance of
there being witnesses who can call the police.)
Burglars will be less likely to break into your stock
room if you hide what is in it boarding or
whitewashing over the windows.
Leave the till open...
By leaving the till visible, open and clearly empty,
any burglars seeking cash are likely to lose interest.
The less you have in stock to attract the thief, the
less can be taken. By coordinating with suppliers you
can introduce ‘just in time’ deliveries, use catalogue
deliveries or home deliveries to reduce stock levels.
But while such methods may minimise stock taken in a
burglary, they are unlikely to deter a burglar unless
he or she knows stock levels are low.
Bank your cash...
If you do not leave cash in the store overnight it
cannot be stolen in a burglary. Night safe facilities
are available after opening hours. If you do not use a
specialist cash collection agency be sure you vary the
route you take to the bank and the times you leave the
In some cases, using dummy goods, (such as coloured
water in wine bottles in off-licence displays, or
empty CDs and cassette tapes) will deter some
opportunistic burglars who only seek display goods,
but you have to make it clear that the goods are fake.
This approach will not deter burglars seeking high
value stock from inside the shop.
Physically protect the target
Strengthening potential entrances...
Use high quality (hardwood) door frames and doors,
steel reinforcing and anti-thrust bolts on vulnerable
doors, and bars on vulnerable windows. Glass panels in
doors are particularly vulnerable to attack and
ideally they should be avoided or boarded up. Ask for
materials that comply at least to BS8220 for the
construction industry as a minimum standard of
strength. And the locks on doors should be at least up
to the quality of a five lever mortice lock conforming
Grilles and shutters...
These can be an excellent way of deterring burglars,
but externally fitted varieties will need planning
permission. Internal grilles are usually a thin
lattice mesh that is lowered just behind the window.
(Note that these do not protect the window and glass
replacement is often the greatest cost in a burglary);
There are three main types of external grilles and
- External metal grilles are usually of the ‘tube
and link’ design;
- External roller shutters (made from solid
aluminium or steel strips or laths which can have
‘windows’ punched into them to allow window shoppers
a glimpse of your wares). External grilles and
shutters usually roll up into a housing behind the
fascia while the shop is trading;
- Some are taken down in sections and stored
inside the shop.
External shutters are strongly resisted by some
planning authorities. Firstly, badly designed or solid
shutters prevent window shopping and create a fortress
– like hostile environment, reducing the numbers of
passers-by at night. Which in turn may increase the
level of crime. Secondly, their horizontal design and
projecting housings seldom fit aesthetically with the
design of a building, (and this is of particular
importance in the case of listed buildings and
Fit grilles inside...
You can protect high value goods within the shop floor
area by securing high risk display cabinets, such as
for tobacco displays, with protective grilles and
A reasonably cheap way of improving the strength of
glass windows against smash and grab attacks is by
applying a plastic film, available in various grades,
to the rear of the window. This is a good deterrent
but filmed glass windows are slightly less clear than
non-filmed windows. Mirror-finished film on rear
windows will both increase the strength of the glass
and fully restrict a burglar’s view into rear storage
This is very difficult to break through in a ‘smash
and grab’ attack because it is made by bonding a layer
of tough plastic between sheets of glass, and this
will hold the window together even after the glass has
broken. However, to be effective you must ensure that
window frames and fixings are equally strong, and bear
in mind that you will often have to pay to replace the
glass, even if the burglars were not able to take your
A good quality safe will protect cash and valuable
items overnight but you should take the added
precaution of bolting it in place and positioning it
discreetly. If you have, or are fitting a burglar
alarm, you can include sensors inside the safe that
will set the alarm off if the safe is opened. But
beware buying a fire safe that doesn’t necessarily
protect against theft, and vice versa. Your insurers
will be able to help you choose a suitable safe and
suggest minimum standards of specification.
Secure cages in the stock room can provide additional
security for high value stock. They can be constructed
using expanded metal sections or created by increasing
the protection within an existing internal room.
Fixing bollards into the ground around your premises
will protect against ram raiders, but you will need to
consult your local planning authority and your
landlord. Some designs of bollard can be removed
during trading hours. Large concrete plant containers
can be used as an alternative to bollards. ‘Road
blocker’ devices can be used to close off vehicle
entrance overnight. Much depends on your location and
circumstances. Your crime prevention officer can
The overall design...
If you are planning a move to a new building or intend
making major refurbishments, you have an excellent
opportunity to build preventive measures into the
design of your premises. For example, you can build
stall risers, put in multi-pane windows, ensure
telephone lines are hidden and protect vehicle
approaches. The Secured by Design scheme has been
developed to help identify builders who have consulted
the police and have incorporated specific crime
prevention measures. The use of the Secured by Design
logo is available to those who meet the required
standards. You may also seek advice from your police
force’s architectural liaison officer (ALO) who is
trained specifically in building design to prevent
burglary and other crimes.
And if it happens…
Remember that if you have been unfortunate enough to
have been burgled, the statistics show that your risk
of being burgled again is much higher. So you will
need to use the advice in this booklet to upgrade your
defences and not merely put things back the way they
were before the burglary. Obviously if an attack takes
place you will have very little time to liaise with
planning authorities, the police and so on – so make
contingency plans now, and arrange what you will do if
the worst happens.
Watching and deterring intruders
You may deter some potential burglars if you display
evidence that you have fitted an intruder alarm.
Others may be scared off if they are breaking in and
hear alarm bells go off. The alarm can be linked by
phone line to a monitoring station which will call the
police if the alarm is activated. If your alarm is
remotely monitored in this way, so that the police can
respond to it, then you will normally be required to
have a 10 minute delay between the alarm being
activated and the bells sounding. This will increase
the chances of the police making an arrest, (but will
mean that your alarm will no longer have the potential
to scare burglars off in the way that it would if the
bells sounded immediately.)
There are many types of alarm varying in
sophistication: some allow alarm systems, once
activated, to be verified by listening in or viewing
them remotely. You can also install systems that
prevent burglars from de-activating the alarm by
cutting telephone signal wires or tampering with the
bell. Your insurer, and your local crime prevention
officer will be able to offer further help or advice,
and provide you will lists of the most established and
reputable alarm dealers in your area.
Burglars are deterred by closed circuit television
cameras monitoring the outside or inside of the
building at night and they can also help police to
detect the burglars. Stringent codes of practice need
to be followed – including ensuring the date and time
are incorporated into the recording – before video
evidence can be successfully used in prosecution.
Controlling vehicle access...
If a burglar cannot bring a vehicle close to your
premises because his access is barred you eliminate
the ram raider and become less attractive proposition
to burglars who depend on vehicles to drive stock
Locking escape routes...
Commercial burglars often plan to use exit routes that
are different from their entry routes. In view of
this, you need to make it as difficult to get out as
it is to get in. Make sure windows, doors, panic
escape bars and internal doors are well locked
overnight, and shut off the power supply for loading
bay shutters. Make sure rear windows, doors, escape
routes, and internal doors are well locked, and
isolate the power supply for loading bay shutters.
If you install lights that are activated by someone
approaching your shop you may deter some potential
burglars. Where your shop is overlooked by passers-by
you will increase the chances of an intruder being
noticed if you simply increase the level of lighting
both inside and outside the building. But take care:
if your shop is never overlooked at night (say because
it is in an out-of-town shopping park) then increased
lighting may simply make it easier for burglars to
For a copy of Your Practical Guide to Crime
Prevention contact the Crime Prevention Officer at
your local police station or write to:
Crime Prevention Publicity
50 Queen Anne's Gate
London SW1H 9AT
Retail and Business Crime
Preventing Violence Against Staff, Customer Fraud,
Customer Theft, Burglary.