Business/Commercial Crime Prevention

open for business

Crime prevention isn't just a set of tools to be used at home or by neighborhood associations, businesses need to practice good crime prevention skills too. Here are some tips that will help you keep your business, your employees and your customers safer.

Robbery Prevention

Robbery is a crime against your person rather than against your property. If someone breaks into your home or business and takes property from the premises, the crime is called a burglary. However, if you are confronted by an individual on the street or in your home, car or business and force is used or threatened against you, you have become the victim of a robbery.
It is important to remember two things:

  • Robbers want one thing – your money or property – and they want it quickly.
  • Robbery is a risky business and robbers are usually nervous. You do not want to delay a robbery in any way and increase the potential for violence. Give the robber what he or she wants and do it quickly. Do not risk your life, or another person’s life, for property.

clerk at register

  • Good visibility allows employees to be aware of suspicious activities outside the store. It also increases the chance passersby will observe robberies taking place inside the store.
  • Keep doors and windows clear. Post any necessary signs to the side, top or bottom of the display windows to allow maximum visibility into and out of the store. This will help customers see your merchandise too.
  • Locate the cash register in a central place. Keep it in clear view of the door, with the customer’s back to the entrance. The register should be visible from the outside.
  • Keep counter displays low. This allows employees to see over the top. You can also rearrange displays to allow surveillance up and down both sides of each aisle.
  • Place wide-angle mirrors in strategic locations. This will assist with visibility in blind areas of the store.
  • Make sure interior lighting provide good visibility in the store at all times. Outdoor lighting should be even and directed toward the sides of the building, not outward where glare can create hiding places for robbers.

surveillance camera

Building Security and Security Devices
  • Control access to the building. Keep all doors locked except the main entrance. Ask employees to use the main entrance.
  • Install a lock on the back room door that can be unlocked from the inside. Supply this room with an extra key, a phone and a panic button. This will enable an employee to summon help if locked in during a robbery.
  • Use signs inside and outside the store to emphasize your security policy on limited cash on hand and employee inaccessibility to the safe.
  • Silent “hold-up” alarms should be considered. Alarm signaling devices can be installed on the floor and tripped by foot, wired to a money clip in the till, hidden under the counter or inside an office or freezer, among other possibilities.
  • Install a “buddy alarm” system. A simple bell or buzzer connected to the neighboring business can be an effective and inexpensive “panic” alarm. It should not be hooked to lights, for a flicker could warn the robber that an alarm has been sent. It should not be loud enough to be heard by the robber. The alarm should be activated only if there is no possibility of detection. A slight movement or sound could trigger a panicking robber into violence.
  • Consider installing a quality video camera and recorder kept high on the wall but visible. Don’t use fake cameras. Robbers know the difference. Have several cameras connected to the system, some visible, some not. Only the managers should have access to the tape.


smiling clerk


• Greet each customer. Establish eye contact and remember their general appearance. Good customer service discourages hesitant robbers as well as other thieves. This attention to detail conveys control and puts people on notice they have been observed and can be identified later.

Policy Considerations
  • Check references of prospective employees.
  • Keep a file on all employees, including their pictures. Past employees know store procedure and where money is kept. They sometimes share this information with others who use it to plan robberies at the store. Pictures of suspects are much more useful than verbal descriptions.
  • Re-key locks and alter safe combinations or codes when employees are dismissed for cause.
  • Establish clear and consistent policies regarding money in the till. Establish how much money will be kept in the till, what bill denominations employees will accept, how to respond to “suspicious” inquires and how to handle loiterers. All employees should be trained and given a written description of store policy. Stress that their commitment to security procedures will reduce their risk of criminal confrontation and physical harm.
  • Staff should never admit customers to premises after closing hours, particularly when the employee is alone.
  • Always maintain adequate staff levels. Be especially careful during opening and closing periods, lunch hours and holiday seasons when there is more money on the site and more distractions.
  • Store clerks should remain alert to what is going on outside their shop. Carefully observe phone booths, parked cars with people inside and loiterers in the vicinity. Many robbers like to watch and wait for the right opportunity. If a parked car containing several people has been noticed on many occasions, get the license number and a general description of the occupants. Notify the police. A discreet investigation can be made and no one embarrassed in case the situation is an innocent one. Be sure to notify the individual(s) following your shift of suspicious circumstances.

employee only

Design Considerations
  • Use gates and counters to separate clients from employees when appropriate. These devices can prevent the potential thief from gaining access to areas where cash or checks are kept or employees store personal belongings. These physical barriers aid in defining public spaces for general use.
  • Post signs to designate restricted areas. For example: “Private” or “Employees Only”.

Crime prevention is serious business and critical to the safety and security of your employees and your customers. For information on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) please contact your district Neighborhood Police Officer.