A Guide to Protecting Your Business Premises, Assets and Staff from Crime

When a business is targeted by criminals, the costs involved can be huge. Valuable equipment and stock can be lost, premises may become damaged and staff morale can be impacted. And in more extreme cases, staff members can be injured. Therefore, in order to protect your business, it makes sense to put the right security measures in place.

Reducing Crime Opportunities

The security measures required for your business will depend on a number of things, including the type of goods you sell, where your business is located, what your trading hours are, what equipment you use, what staff you employ and whether or not you handle cash. It’s important that you know how you can make it riskier, difficult and less profitable for criminals to use your business as their next target.

This guide will explain what the most common issues are when it comes to business security, what you’re required to do legally and what you can do to prevent the different types of crime.


Conducting a Security Survey of Your Business

Before you start putting prevention methods in place, it’s important that you conduct a survey of your business first. This will enable you to assess whether there are any weaknesses in your business’s security and what security you need to put in place.

 Firstly, you should assess your local area, e.g. the shopping centre or business park. Look at how high the crime level is and what types of crimes are being committed - the police website can help you to establish this.

 Then you’ll need to conduct a business security survey, which will help you to perform a full survey of your business. The business security aspect should cover the internal and external parts of your business premises, assessing the risks of crime to your company. Try to think of this as peeling an onion, looking at your premises in layers, as this will help you to cover all aspects of your business security needs.

Preparing for the Survey

At each ‘layer’, you’ll need to think about how you can deter criminals, removing or preventing any potential criminal targets. Within most businesses, there will be three physical targets:

    • The building - including garages and stores
    • The property - such as equipment, stock and cash
    • The people - e.g. visitors, security guards and staff

At each area, you’ll need to try to:

    • Remove any possible excuses for criminal activity
    • Reduce anything that may provoke someone to commit a crime
    • Reduce the possible rewards of crime

In order to do this, you’ll need to concentrate on all aspects of security, considering all the potential targets and what effect criminal activity will have on them. For example, this could be staff moral, the inability to deliver goods, temporary closure or financial loss. You may also want to consider computer data theft, graffiti, violence, fraud and so on.

Whilst doing your survey, you should also consider the following:

  • The types and amount of crime in your area
  • Whether there has been a victim of crime nearby
  • Whether there are any business crime partnerships that exist in your local neighbourhood - Retailers Against Crime is a good place to start for this

Use a map to pinpoint what access points there are for your business and what entry and escape routes there potentially are. In particular, you need to look for escape routes that offenders may favour due to the likelihood that they won’t be seen. 

Starting the Survey

To make sure you cover all areas of your business, it may be handy to use a security checklist when you’re doing your security survey. We’ve included one at the end of this guide to help you get started.

 Always keep your notes on file once you’ve done your survey as this will help you to compare your security measures when you do your next survey, making your plans even more effective.

 For your survey, consider these four areas:

    • The environment your business is in / the area around your premises - e.g. the alleys or streets that border it
    • The perimeter - how could a criminal gain access to the building from a public area?
    • The shell - e.g. windows and doors that could provide criminals with access to your premises
    • The interior - how can you make this even more secure to prevent criminal activities?

Check for any weak areas in your business premises by walking around the boundary of it during the day and when it’s dark. Look for possible opportunities for crime, including:

    • Fences or walls that could be climbed
    • Objects, such as bins, that could be used to help criminals climb over walls or that could be used for arson
    • Materials or tools that are left out that could assist with a break-in
    • Potential hiding places
    • Any areas that are poorly lit and would assist a criminal with a break-in by keeping them hidden

Property Boundaries and Fencing

Walls, railings or steel fencing that is 2.5 metres or higher can help to create an effective barrier for protecting your business. You could also consider electric fence alarms, rotating vanes or barbed wire at the top of walls or fences or even an anti-climb paint to make it even more difficult for criminals to access the premises.

The Building Itself

When thinking about the shell of the building itself, consider what security measures may help to deter criminals or delay a break-in. Areas to consider are:

  • Roofs (especially if they’re flat)
  • Loading bays
  • Cellars
  • The back of your business
  • The side of your business

Try to look at these through the eyes of a criminal, thinking about how these areas may look to them when the business is open and closed and during the day and night

Installing Security Measures to Your Business Premises

Once you’ve conducted your survey and have identified what the main security risks are, you can put the right actions in place to protect your business. You’ll want to introduce measures that will deter and delay potential criminals from seeing your business premises as an easy target.

To decide what measures you need to put in place, you need to consider how you can:

  • Increase the criminal’s risk of being caught
  • Increase how hard it is for the criminal to conduct the crime
  • Reduce the reward on offer to the criminal if they succeed; e.g. how much cash in kept on the premises
  • Reduce how attractive the environment is to a criminal so they’re more likely to be deterred

 The measures you put in place should be:

  •  Realistic
  • Appropriate
  • Cost-effective

Possible Security Features for Your Boundary

The boundary of your business premises is the first line of defence that you have, so this needs to look as unwelcoming as possible. You should also consider how you can restrict vehicles from getting near to the building.

 Here are some features you may want to consider:

  • Bollards - These will help to restrict how close a vehicle can get to your premises. There are also removable ones if you need to gain access to the premises during the day.
  • Fences - Consider fencing that fits in with the security measures you want to put in place and the view your customers will have. High-security fences may not attract passersby (especially if you’re a retail shop) so consider low fences - even though these are easy to climb over, they also make a burglar more visible.
  • Barbed Wire - This is great for adding to walls/fences to add a further deterrent. But you’ll always need to consider the Section 164 Highways Act 1980 to make sure the barbed wire isn’t deemed a ‘nuisance’ to the highway (i.e. it will cause injury to animals or people). Barbed wire that’s less than 8 feet from the ground tends to be considered a nuisance.
  • Electric Fencing - Once installed to defined specifications, this can provide a great security measure for your building.
  • Lighting - Consider installing some external lighting systems to deter criminals by making them more visible. These include floodlights that are motion sensored or low-wattage lights that stay on all night.

Possible Security Features for Your Premises

To protect the physical building of your business, here are some things you may want to consider:

  • External Doors - You may have the best lock installed on the door but this won’t be much use if the frame and door are low quality. Consider installing a robust door that’s made of metal and use hinges that can’t be taken out of the frame.
  • Mortise Locks - A mortise deadlock is recommended if you’ve got wooden exterior doors. You may also want to fit two of these locks to make it harder for the criminal to force the door.
  • Bolts - Mortise bolts can be incredibly effective when they’re placed at the top and bottom of your door. However, these can only be placed on doors that you don’t need to access from the outside.
  • Gated Doors - To add to the security of an external door, a metal gate can be fitted to cover it.
  • Roller Shutters - Shutters can be a great deterrent but always check with your local authority before installing them as there can be some restrictions. It may also prevent ‘window shoppers’ from browsing whilst your shop is closed, so you may want to weigh up the pros and cons of installing these.
  • Window Locks - Additional window locks can be fitted to most windows and can add to the security of your building. Self-locking windows are a great alternative too but are often more expensive. However, they’re beneficial if the windows are being frequently opened (e.g. they’re in the canteen or toilet).
  • Glass - Laminated glass is preferred over security glass due to its safety and added security. You may also want to consider adding security film to your glass; not only does this offer protection from burglars but can add to your energy efficiency too.
  • Internal Doors - Consider locking internal doors when you leave the premises as this may prevent a burglar from going further into the building, especially if they’ve activated an alarm.
  • Keys - Don’t leave any spare keys for doors or windows lying around in the building. Place them in a secure cabinet and have tight security measures in place as to who 

Protecting Your Staff with Security Measures

As an employer, protecting the health and safety of your staff is something you have a legal duty to do. But by bringing in security measures that help to keep your staff safe, you’ll be raising their awareness too, which will help to improve how secure your business is.

Things you can put in place include:

  • Checking the identities of delivery personnel and visitors
  • Checking the identity of everyone you deliver to
  • Getting signatures when you receive and deliver goods
  • Installing a CCTV system to monitor exits and entrances

Businesses that are at High Risk

If your business handles a lot of expensive goods or cash, it’s advisable that a protective screen is fitted (by the cash register, for example) in order to protect staff. Secure storage, e.g. a safe and CCTV are other must-haves. (We’ll discuss this more in the section: Protecting Your Business’s Money with Security Measures).

Equally, if your business is at high risk or it’s located within a high-risk area, you may also find it beneficial to employ security guards.

Business Security and Customers

Any scarves or helmets that cover a customer’s face should be asked to be removed before they enter your business premises. Some companies also install a height mark on the door, which can help you to gauge how tall a criminal is if you need to submit evidence to the police. Having a visible height mark can also deter criminals.

When Employees Work Alone

When some of your staff are working alone, you can help to protect them by providing:

  • A radio link scheme
  • Personal alarms
  • CCTV with audio
  • Controlled access
  • Automatic warning devices
  • Regular security or police checks
  • Lone-working monitoring devices

Staff should also vary their times and routes to add to their safety.

Dealing with a Violent Incident

A violent incident could involve customers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, angry customers or theft. And to make sure staff are prepared for such eventualities, you may want to run a training programme in conflict management. Staff should be advised not to put themselves at risk, moving away from the aggressive customer whilst making sure they aren’t being isolated.

If necessary, they should raise an alarm or call 999, trying to write down any key pieces of information that will help the police to identify the suspect. The scene and CCTV footage should also be secured until the police attend the scene. It’s important that all incidents are reported to the police by calling 999 or 101 in a non-emergency.

When a staff member is injured, they may need medical assistance but they should also receive your support. You can offer this by:

  • Debriefing them, discussing what has happened
  • Giving them some time off to recover
  • Recommending a specialist counsellor

Protecting Your Business Assets with Security Measures

Protecting your business assets is just as important as protecting your premises. Assets may include:

  • Computers, laptops and tablets
  • Information stored on paper or computers
  • Mobile phones
  • Company vehicles
  • Specialist tools and equipment

Marking Your Assets

Each piece of equipment your business owns should be permanently marked and you should also make a note of the:

  • Model
  • Make
  • Serial number

Try to keep a record of what assets you have, who’s responsible for them and where they’re located. These checks should be carried out by a dedicated employee on a regular basis. Secure any high-value items in a secure storeroom when they’re not in use.

Mobile Phones and Computers

If a mobile phone, laptop, computer or tablet is stolen, it’s the loss of data that can be more of a security threat than the loss of the item itself, especially if there’s personal information available on it. This could put individuals at risk, may affect how your business can operate, could damage your reputation and may result in a significant fine.

Protecting Your Business Data

Assessing the potential risks that there are to your business data will enable you to put the right measures in place, keeping your information assets as well as your physical ones safe. Common threats are:

  • Fraud - The theft of sensitive data by hackers or even your own staff
  • Viruses - Programs that wreak havoc on your computer systems
  • Cybercrime - When people maliciously gain access to your computer systems and delete, steal or alter data
  • Data Loss - This can be caused by any of the above or may be caused due to a fire/flood at your premises

To increase your data security, there are a number of steps you can put in place. For example, all your computers should have anti-virus software, have an Internet firewall and be password protected. Employees should back up their files and change their passwords regularly. And any information that’s kept on these devices should be kept off-site or be copied.

All mobile phones can be identified with their International Mobile Equipment Number (IMEI), which is something you should have written down in your log of assets. To find a mobile phone’s IMEI simply type *#06# into the handset.

Protecting Transported Goods and Business Vehicles

Any business vehicles you have should be treated just like the premises of your business with secure windows and doors and a lockable box in the back. Other security devices you can add include:

  •  A steering lock
  • An immobiliser
  • A vehicle tracking system
  • An alarm

 If you have high-value machinery and vehicles, e.g. plant machinery or tractors, consider installing tracking devices or marking these so they’re easily identifiable.

Using reflective film on the vehicle’s windows will hide the contents inside but you should always make sure contents are hidden from view. Or, make people aware that nothing of value has been left in the vehicle. For overnight stops, your employees should park their vehicles in secure lorry parks.

When delivering items by post, using special delivery or recorded delivery services will provide you with a much more secure service, protecting you against loss or damage

Protecting Your Business Money with Security Measures

Getting into a routine is something you need to avoid if you’re handling cash on a regular basis. It’s also worth trying to reduce how much cash is kept on the premises by: 

    • Removing cash at night - e.g. emptying tills
    • Placing excess cash in a tamper-proof, locked unit
    • Making regular payments into the bank
    • Encouraging customers to use electronic payment methods - e.g. debit/credit cards
    • Paying wages directly into bank accounts

When There’s Cash On-Site 

    • It should be kept in a secure place, e.g. in a safe
    • If possible, you should clear cash so there are minimal amounts in public areas/tills
    • To make sure cash is held securely, consider using drop-safes that have a time-locking mechanism
    • Don’t let staff handle cash alone
    • Cash shouldn’t be handled by anyone who deals with the business’s financial records

Transferring Cash in Person 

    • Never make a secure payment into the bank alone
    • Vary the route and times used to do this
    • Make sure only those who are involved in moving cash have information about it
    • Consider hiring a cash-in-transit business to provide added security

Counterfeit and Stained Cash

Make sure your staff are aware of stained cash notes and their risks. Many notes become stained during robberies when the cash degradation system is set off. If you are offered a stained note, reject it like you would a damaged or mutilated note and advise them to fill in the damaged banknotes form with the Bank of England.

You should also ensure your employees are up to date with counterfeit notes, regularly checking for updates on what you should be looking out for.


As many people turn to electronic payment systems and online banking, cheques are becoming even more redundant. However, when using cheques, there are a number of things to look out for:

Writing Cheques 

    • Include the full details of the payee on the cheque
    • Rule out any blank spaces
    • Don’t use a windowed envelope to send a cheque by post
    • Use cheques in serial number order and store securely
    • Shred any spoiled cheques, if possible

Receiving Cheques 

    • Make sure cheques are filled out in front of you and are torn from a chequebook
    • Check the amount and date are correct
    • Don’t provide the customer with any goods until their cheque has cleared
    • If you receive a cheque that’s for more than the amount required and you’re asked to transfer the difference back to the customer electronically - it’s highly likely that this is a scam and the cheque will bounce

Debit or Credit Cards

It’s vital that you have the right procedures in place for handling debit and credit cards, including a chip and pin device. If you’re not able to use one of these, you should check for: 

    • Expiry and start dates
    • Signs of tampering
    • Matching signature
    • Matching number on the till printout and the card

 If you’re still not sure - contact the card issuer to get their authorisation

Protecting Your Stock with Security Measures

In order to keep your stock secure, you’ll need to know where it’s located and what you have, keeping records of when stock is used, sold, thrown away or replaced. To keep your stock safe, you can: 

    • Conduct regular stock checks, which include deliveries
    • Operate a stock control system, making sure records are only amended after authorisation
    • Keep stock away from areas where they can be easily reached, e.g. doors
    • Use secure rooms or cabinets that are lockable and fireproof for high-value stock
    • Use CCTV or mirrors to keep equipment and stock monitored at all times
    • Limit how many people can access valuable stock

Shoplifters and Thieves

It’s important that staff are always vigilant, keeping an eye out for suspicious behaviour before taking the appropriate actions, e.g. reporting the activity. Examples of suspicious behaviour are: 

    • Trying to rush a transaction
    • Picking up items quickly
    • Working in groups so as to distract staff members
    • Using different cards to make the purchases

Preventing Theft by Staff

If you’re concerned about staff stealing from you, there are a number of things you can put in place to prevent this, including: 

    • Installing CCTV in staff car parks
    • Creating an honest working environment, communicating to staff members the costs and implications of stealing from the company
    • Regularly changing who controls stock
    • Restricting access to stationery cupboards, stockrooms and warehouses 

And before you hire a new employee, check their references thoroughly and verify their identity. 

Putting Business Security Plans in Place

There should be enough safety and security procedures in your business to make it safe, and your staff should be aware of these. A procedure could be anything from locking the warehouse door straight after a delivery has been made to using the company’s alarm system

There should also be a rigorous procedure in place for securing the premises of your business. This should include turning computers and lights off, locking all the doors and windows, activating the alarm and switching on any other security features, e.g. floodlights. Be sure to pay attention to those areas where rubbish or combustible materials are stored and make sure smoke and fire detectors are working by checking them regularly. 

To protect your business’s information and equipment, consider a security plan that ensures: 

    • Equipment is removed from any vehicles overnight
    • Equipment is securely stored
    • The equipment room is locked
    • Staff are constantly encouraged to be vigilant

The Use of Signs to Deter Criminals

Sometimes, a criminal can be put off by a well-placed sign. Here are some examples of what they can say: 

    • No cash is held on this premises
    • All property has been marked to make it easily identifiable
    • Staff are not granted access to the safe
    • CCTV is in operation
    • No tools are left in this vehicle overnight
    • No stock is left in this premises/vehicle overnight 

Make sure all your employees are aware what their security duties are and make sure they’re following the correct procedures. Take the time to ensure they’re aware what they should do in an emergency and the importance of them gathering as much information as possible when there’s an incident. 

Installing CCTV to Protect Your Business from Crime

To provide you with added peace of mind and to monitor the outside and/or inside of your premises, you may want to consider installing closed-circuit television (CCTV). Some of these can be operated manually by staff or by a professional company. 

Installing CCTV can help to: 

    • Deter thieves
    • Watch more than one remote area at once
    • Enable your premises to be watched from a safe area
    • Help police to identify and prosecute thieves

Choosing the Right CCTV System

When it comes to choosing a CCTV system for your workplace, it’ll depend on the location and type of your premises, your office equipment and/or machinery and the value of your stock.

You may want to discuss this with your local crime prevention officer or insurance company to get their advice.

Placing CCTV Around Your Premises

CCTV cameras should be positioned in areas that are: 

    • Particularly quiet or hidden from view
    • Where staff can be at risk or alone, e.g. car parks
    • Vulnerable to potential intruders

Always put up notices that state that you’ve got a CCTV system installed and make sure cameras are easy to spot to help deter criminals. You may want to install dummy cameras as a cheaper alternative, using them on their own or alongside a smaller CCTV system to make it look bigger. However, if thieves realise they are fake, this could put your business at risk. 

You should also try to: 

    • Put a tape archive system in place so you have evidence if you need it
    • Avoid blocking the views of your cameras with trees, high-sided vehicles etc.
    • Protect cameras from being attacked

When you first start using your CCTV system, you’ll need to make sure it’s set up correctly and that the images being recorded on tape are clear. Having unclear images could reduce how effectively the thieves can be identified.

Check Your Insurance Requirements

It’s worth checking with your insurer what kind of CCTV system they would like you to install as they may have a preference/recommendation.

CCTV and Data Protection

If you do have a CCTV system installed, you have to protect individuals’ rights under the Data Protection Act.

To adhere to these regulations you’ll need to: 

    • Display signs that tell people they’re being recorded by CCTV
    • If requested, you’ll need to provide individuals with images you’ve recorded of them - you’ll have to give these to them within 40 days and can charge them up to £10 for this
    • Make sure you only release images to organisations that are in line with the purpose of the CCTV system. For example, if you’ve installed it to deter criminals, you can release images to law enforcement agencies
    • Keep recorded images for no longer than they’re required

Reporting a Crime Against Your Business

In an emergency, you should dial 999 but for non-emergency, dial 101.

When you speak to the police about the crime that’s been made against your business, you’ll be provided with a Crime Index number. Be sure to make a note of this for future reference as you may need it when you have to access police records or to discuss the incident further.

If you wish to report the crime anonymously, you can do so by calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.