Covid-19 Crime Prevention: The Need to Step Up Security of Unoccupied Establishments, Limited Operations

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, across the country local and state decrees have mandated non-essential businesses to close or limit operations, including restaurants and bars, in order to help prevent the spread of the virus. In addition to having been hard hit by the loss of income and employee layoffs, a spike in burglaries is also unfortunately another fallout of the COVID-19 crisis for many of these businesses.  

Burglaries and Looting a Major Concern

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), for example, reported that the NYPD “has seen a 75% increase in reports of burglaries of commercial establishments from March 12, when New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency, to March 31.” According to the WSJ article, 254 burglaries of businesses took place during that time period this year compared with 145 for the same period last year. Burglars are taking currency, electronics and consumables, such as food, alcohol and retail goods from businesses.

“We knew with the closing of many stores that we could see an increase and, unfortunately, we are,” said NYPD Chief of Crime Control Strategies Michael LiPetri.

Looting is also a major concern—particularly common during an economic downturn, which has been triggered by the virus nationwide.

In fact, police in New York, Los Angeles and other cities are on “high alert” for opportunists hoping to hit retail shops, restaurants, liquor stores and offices while people are home in quarantine. Street patrols have been stepped up in an effort to deter wannabe burglars.

For Closed Businesses: Mitigating Burglaries, Looting

Following are several measures businesses should be taking to help prevent burglaries and looting:

  • Review security plans.
  • If possible, business owners should move the most expensive or theft-sensitive inventory to an offsite storage facility (or their homes) until the quarantine period is over.
  • Businesses located in strip malls can look to pool their money to hire a security guard firm to watch all of their businesses 24/7.
  • Install window bars or grilles. Many business owners in fact have taken the extra precaution of boarding up the windows of theirs bars, restaurants, and casinos across New York City, Philadelphia, Miami Beach, New Orleans, Miami Beach, and Los Angeles, among other cities.
  • Make sure alarms and video surveillance systems are working properly and are not outdated. Also, be sure security cameras are aimed at the right locations to capture suspicious activity and suspects’ faces.
  • Empty cash registers and make it obvious that they are empty by leaving them open with the drawers removed.
  • Lock up alcohol.

Tips for Businesses with Reduced Hours or Take-Out/Delivery Operations

  • Assess security and staffing plans to make sure a sufficient number of employees are on site.
  • Ensure the staff is fully aware of the businesses’ procedures for robbery and theft incidents.
  • Review policies for cash on hand.
  • Control access to the establishment for customers coming in for pickups; maintain safe spacing of at least six feet between each person.
  • Ensure all doors not being used are locked.
  • Secure access to non-public areas, bathrooms and storage rooms.
  • Train staff to be observant and report suspicious people within or around your business.
  • Review safety plans with delivery drivers, reminding them to be extra vigilant if approached by a stranger on the street. Drivers should never leave keys in their car or the car running while making deliveries.

Review the details of your clients’ Crime insurance coverage as well as the precautionary measures they should be taking to prevent losses.  

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Security Magazine, Fox 9