Lock it down: theft and facility management

by FM Media
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Author: Eddie Drohomirecki, ASSA ABLOY

The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) is the country’s national research and knowledge centre on crime and justice, and it keeps up-to-date records and research of the status of crime and victims.

The AIC (crimestats.aic.gov.au) reveals that the highest volume of recorded victims last year (2016) was as follows:

  • other theft (537,283)
  • unlawful entry with intent (188,756)
  • motor vehicle theft (56,086), and
  • sexual assault (23,052).

The better news from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (abs.gov.au), however, is that recent figures also show decreases in the majority of offence categories, with robbery, unlawful intent and motor vehicle theft victims all falling to five-year lows in the second decade of the 2000s.

But regardless of slight shifts in the overall figures, it’s true that hundreds of thousands of us are still waking up or turning up to work to find property that was once in our possession is no longer so – whether that’s from a home or workplace burglary, falling prey to a pickpocket or being mugged in the street. Some of these experiences are very difficult to avoid completely, but others can be militated against by being proactive and taking precautions.

Research and much anecdotal evidence reveals that the majority of burglaries are committed by opportunistic or ‘amateur’ burglars, who see easy pickings and take advantage of them.

As the facility manager of a commercial environment or a multi-residential property, it’s beholden upon you to make such easy pickings a thing of the past. Of course, all of your efforts can be undone by thoughtless or less than stringent tenants and/or their visitors, but education and simple but effective procedures are your best tool in the ongoing fight against crime.

The first and most obvious step to take in both commercial and residential premises is to fit good quality locks on doors and windows. This ensures that even if unauthorised people find their way into a facility, they will find it that much harder to leave again, other than by the way they entered. Hopefully this should also minimise the number of items that can be stolen, as it is difficult to carry bulky items.

Even ‘professional’ or experienced thieves may often baulk at well-secured properties, rather than spending too much time or risk making too much noise trying to break into a home protected by quality security products.

What are the basic products needed to deter all but the most persistent would-be burglars?

The following three steps are a good start:

  • install double cylinder deadlocks or deadlatches on all external doors
  • install key operated window locks on all windows, and
  • install three-point deadlocking locks on all security screen doors.

For those facility or property managers looking after multi-residential properties, regular safety meetings with tenants are a good idea, followed up with strategically placed notices of safety- aware behaviour suggestions. Here are a few recommendations you may like to make to tenants:

  • always lock your apartment/unit/house, even if you are only going to be away for a few minutes
  • if the property doesn’t have them already, install a door viewer so you can check who is at the door before you open it
  • check service providers’ credentials before letting them in
  • take photos of your valuables and, if possible, use a safe for jewellery and other important possessions
  • keep valuable hardware and recreational equipment in padlocked designated areas – in apartment blocks this may be a secure area in a basement car park or a shed/garage elsewhere on the property
  • keep shrubs and trees around the house well- pruned (or request that the body corporate does this), so as not to provide cover for a burglar
  • have locks or cylinders changed when you move into a new property or when keys are lost (this can be particularly important in a multi-residential or commercial property where there is high churn among the residents or tenants)
  • use padlocks on gates, garages, letterboxes and sheds, and
  • if there is little exterior lighting, lobby the body corporate to install some, and possibly internal alarms or hinged window grilles for additional protection.

One of the riskiest periods for opportunistic thieves is when premises are unoccupied; for example, during holidays, or at weekends and public holidays for commercial premises.

Homeowners leaving their residence vacant may consider the following strategies:

  • lock all doors and windows, including any external premises, such as sheds or garages
  • cancel regular deliveries, for example, newspapers and milk
  • lock away all tools and ladders
  • advertise that you have protection by displaying beware signs if you have a dog or alarm
  • leave a radio on quietly
  • if possible have appropriate internal lights on a timer, so that they come on and off at particular times (with new technology like smart home hubs, this is becoming increasingly simple)
  • arrange for mail to be collected or held by the postal service, and most importantly
  • advise neighbours and/or your property/facility manager of your plans.

This last point is equally advisable if the venue is a commercial premises, being vacated for any period of time. Above all, stress to the users of the premises, whether they be office workers, factory staff or residential tenants, to use a bit of common sense. If they work in a place that has frequent visitors or delivery people, and they leave their wallets or smartphones lying on their desks when they go out to lunch, they really shouldn’t be too surprised to return one day to find them gone.

But good quality security products, properly installed and used, and thoughtful behaviour should keep opportunistic thefts to an absolute minimum and happier tenants and residents all round.

Eddie Drohomirecki is product manager – Door Control and PED, ASSA ABLOY.

This article also appears in the December/January issue of Facility Management magazine.

Image: luckybusiness © 123RF.com

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