Crime watch: Is your business safe?

Crime costs business £19bn annually and is up 10% on last year, but you can reduce your risks


How safe is your business? Well, a lot safer if you’re in Norwich or Newcastle rather than Nottingham or Leicester, according to the 2007 AXA Business Crime Index.

But the reality is that no business is totally secure. Figures for crime against businesses were 10% higher in the first three months of 2007 than in 2006. It’s estimated it makes up a fifth of all crime committed in the UK and the British Chambers of Commerce puts the cost of it at £19bn annually.

So how can you protect your premises, PCs, stock, data and machinery? And how will it save you cash?

Insurance savings

Dealing with the second question first, solid protection will get you better insurance deals and so reduce premiums. You’ll already have minimum requirements dictated in the policy agreement, but go the extra mile and you can start negotiating. “We need to ensure businesses are taking security seriously. If we didn’t enforce these minimum requirements, those who do take measures to protect their business would be disadvantaged through higher premiums,” explains Robert Bartlett, CEO of insurance company Brighter Business.

Firms also take into account the type of business – a PC retailer’s stock will be more valuable than, say, a stonemason’s.

Insurers expect your system to be installed by a company approved by an inspectory body to ensure it meets legislative requirements. If you’re reading this with a view to upgrading, make sure you inform your insurer of changes as this should affect your policy for the better.

“If a business has gone above and beyond the security requirements we would require for their type of business we would consider a premium reduction on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all other factors which might affect their insurance requirements,” Bartlett says.

Do be alarmed

So how do you raise security levels? As security services provider Chubb puts it: “An alarm that isn’t monitored is just a noise.” But 25% of businesses have a bell-only alarm, according to Norwich Union Risk Services. Better by far are monitored systems, which automatically inform an approved off-site centre.

DIY alarm systems start at around £100, but to get the benefit of a monitoring system an alarm must be installed by an approved company to get a unique reference number (URN) from the police, which allows activations to be followed up and checked. Search the websites of the independent inspectory bodies (see overleaf) to locate approved suppliers in your region. Larger companies such as ADT and Chubb also offer intruder alarms that are developed specifically for medium-sized businesses and will be National Security Inspectorate (NSI)-approved.

Alarms can include a range of security- boosting features. Gayna Hart, MD of medicalsupplierQuicksilva,beefedmedical supplier QbeefedQQuicksilva, beefed up security after abreak-inin2004.”Oura break-in in 20044.”Our. Our alarm system has a movement and heat sensor, and the monitoring system can also listen in,” she explains. “For instance, if a mouse makes a dash, the centre will get the first alert which is the movement, then it can tell from the amount of heat what size the body is, then it has the option of listening for trouble – things breaking or people moving objects.”

As an idea of price, Graham Errington, managing director of Acorn Engineering, says his intruder alarm includes around 50 sensors and cost £3,322.

Controlling access

According to Chubb, unauthorised access to your building represents the biggest risk. Limit and control this and you’re on your way. Swipe cards are popular and are seen by many users as easier to control than a coded keypad entry system.

Graham Errington decided on swipe cards for his business and issued them to his 50 staff. Some offer 244-hour access to key employees; the rest allow access from 7am to 7pm, Monday to Friday. The cost? £6,650.

John Gotley, managing director at property specialist Portal, recommends auditing the swipe access once a month to stay aware of leavers and new starters. If an individual does leave, deactivate the card immediately. Security company ADT agrees and advises you select the number of areas and access points carefully.carefully.

Get a number of quotes because risk assessments, while similar in fundamen-fundamentals ,oftendifferonkeypoints.Askyourself, often differ on key points. Ask yourself which entrances and doors in the stairwells need to be most secure. Look at the building layout, the number and turnover of employees, and the access required.

Security cameras

CCTV is often seen as an effective preventative solution as it is a legal requirement to warn potential intruders they are going to be a film star. Richard Webster, director of the security division at security firm Emprise, says: “When you’re putting cameras on site, protect the perimeter to give you an early warning system first.”

Cameras can be bought individually from security specialists or be included in a system by a company such as Chubb; its Chubb Monitor AFx includes intruder alarm, access control, digital CCTV and central control, for example.

CCTV is often linked with monitoring systems connected to the intruder alarm, so the centre that monitors your alarm can also see what’s happening in the premises. The CCTV system is linked to the remote centre by standard ISDN. Gotley explains: “The police used to have so many false alarms that they now prefer to go through a monitoring system. Big players such as Chubb and ADT will have their own, but so will other private organisations. Again, they will have to conform to certain criteria in order to monitor the alarms and put the calls through to the police.”

One popular service is provided by BT Redcare. Redcare’s network guarantees that any activation signals are received by your alarm monitoring centre of choice. QQuicksilva’s Hart,whopaysaround£625ayearHart,625ayear, who pays around £625 a year for her monitoring system, explains: “The system uses an existing telephone line into the building and sends a constant signal to the monitoring centre. If that line gets cut, the centre gets alerted straight away.”

She adds: “We also have a second alarmalarm code, so if you’re forced to open the building you don’t use the real alarm code. It opens the door and resets the alarm but lets the centre know there’s an incident.”

There are other monitoring options, such as that offered by Intamac Systems. Its Business Manager service is an automated monitoring and messaging service which alerts the business owner by call, text message and email when there is an incident. It uses web-camera monitoring, so “effectively, you can monitor your alarm over the web,” says CEO Kevin Meagher “And it can be used by any system. The installer can program it – all he has to do to make it work with our system is put our phone number in the alarm panel.” These options can cost as little as £10 a month.

Finging an installer

A spokesman from regulatory body the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) stresses the most critical thing “is to make sure the installation company is approved”. Companies can voluntarily put themselves up for approval from a recognised independent inspectorate organisation (see panel right). All these organisations publish lists on their websites of authorised alarm-fitting companies. Get a rogue trader and your alarm will not be eligible for police response. And, crucially, if it’s an approved installers’ alarm, it will be linked to a police-approved monitoring system and have a URN.

Equally important is after-care. A NSI spokesman says: “Part of our criteria for approval is that the company has a 24- hour response to problems with the alarm system.” Cry wolf too many times, though, and the police will stop responding. The Association of Chief Police Officers has provided thresholds for police response. The police will only respond immediately if there have been fewer than three false alarms (fi ve in Scotland) in the last year.

After two false calls (four in Scotland), police attendance may be delayed and after five false calls (seven in Scotland), the response will be withdrawn and only the keyholder will be notifi ed.

Security guards

“Security or manned guarding is usually driven by insurance companies,” says Webster. “When you secure a place, you’re looking at perceived risk. If it’s petty theft, say, in a warehouse, and that costs you £15,000 a year and it’s going to cost £100,000 a year to put a manned guard on site, you suffer the pilfering. If you’ve got a loss situation of £200,000 it’s worth investing.”

A guard on site all day every day can cost up to £100,000 a year in central London, so it’s generally only suitable for larger companies – retail parks, shopping centres and so on. But some smaller businesses hire a guard for nights and weekends for 108 hours a week. The Security Industry Association will give approval to companies offering guarding services

Getting the best deal

Portal’s Gotley estimates the price tag for a fully installed, approved electronic security system for a 50,000ft2 building which accommodates 600 people to be around £100,000. But most smaller businesses would be able to secure their premises for much less. Gotley says: “Explore and give yourself a shortlist of about six companies to do a survey and put proposals forward. You can also ask them to take you somewhere where the system is in place. This will help you determine whether it’s costeffective and flexible enough.”

And think about growth – get a system that can cope with the expansion, rather than doing it all again in five years.

Make sure your quotation includes the terms of maintenance and monitoring contracts, and that the company operates a 24-hour call-out service. Finally, ensure the alarm system is easily operated by all employees. With business effectively £19bn in deficit to crime, an alarm won’t eradicate the danger, but it does reduce the chance of your becoming another statistic.

Case study: Safe and sound

Company: Acorn Engineering

Owner-manager: Graham Errington Graham Errington, managing director of Acorn Engineering, joined his local Business Watch when he moved onto Slough Trading Estate.

Slough Business Watch, which costs Errington ?350 a year, installed a system that interfaces with his intruder alarm. When the alarm is activated, Business Watch is alerted and sends a patrol car to check the premises within two minutes.

The intruder alarm is connected to a monitoring system though DualCom, which cost ?350 to install and ?305 a year to maintain. ?Custodian Alarms do the monitoring and contact the keyholder in the event of activation,? Errington explains.

He also uses a keyholder service. Reliance Security has the company?s access cards and keys to check the property. For this, the company pays ?355 a year. The firm introduced a swipe card system for the 50-plus employees, which keeps a record of everyone going in and out and cost Acorn ?6,560.

Additionally, four CCTV cameras, costing ?2,720, and a dedicated PC were installed. It?s a set-up that seems likely to pay dividends ? not least for peace of mind.

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