10 ways to... Better protect your business from crime

10 ways to... Better protect your business from crimeCrime remains a big concern for many small firms. Offences against business are estimated to make up a whopping 20% of all recorded crime in the UK, with cyber crime alone costing UK businesses in excess of £21bn a year. Meanwhile criminals are continually looking for more ingenious ways to rob honest, hardworking business owners. So how can you limit the risk you face?

1 Carry out a risk assessment

It always starts with identifying where you are most vulnerable. Perhaps you are already aware of where your business has been the victim of crime, but that might not tell the whole story. Carry out a thorough assessment. Involve others within your business if applicable.

2 Secure your premises

If need be, strengthen doors, fit window locks and install security lighting. Each can deter burglars, because most burglaries are unplanned. If access points are vulnerable, install CCTV (but be aware the data protection rules apply). If you don't have an alarm – get one fitted and put up signs to warn of its presence. Although it involves cost, your insurance premiums could go down. Consider whether shutters or grilles should be installed, although you might need planning permission from your local council. Internally, you could put up security mirrors to cover any blind spots.

3 Protect yourself and your staff

Make sure necessary security training is available and that everyone knows what to do in the event of a serious threat. Better to give up goods or cash than get hurt trying to defend it. Also train your people to recognise suspicious behaviour by those who enter your premises. Your people should also know how to report crime to you. Keep as little cash as possible on site and routinely empty tills. Take any excess cash to your bank. Put up signs warning that certain parts of your premises are only accessible to staff members.

4 Secure your equipment

Carry out regular property and equipment audits and allocate responsibility for particular items to individual employees. Tag computers and record details of serial numbers. Consider securing expensive equipment to floors or walls. Also make sure any bikes and vehicles are kept secure.

5 Protect your stock

Being organised will help you identify any discrepancies in your stock count early on. Keep on top of paperwork and question excessive amounts of voids, credits or damage claims. Make time to carry out regular stock takes.

6 Prevent employee theft

Always verify previous employment history and make sure you check references – even for casual or part-time employees. Introduce clear policies about theft and make sure you inform staff. Exercise due caution when granting access to keys and revealing security codes. All instances of theft should be met with decisive action. Be prepared to fully support prosecution. Keep a close eye on till money and petty cash, as both are particularly vulnerable to employee theft.

7 Stop information theft

To protect sensitive information, including client's financial records and employee details, use access controls on computers to restrict entry. Regularly review who has access 'privileges' and change passwords regularly. Ensure your IT systems are also adequately protected from external threats by installing firewalls and anti-virus software.

8 Shred sensitive paper waste

Don't simply throw it in the bin, because criminals might be able to use the information it carries. Install lockable filing cabinets to store personal or confidential information.

9 Seek advice

Speak to the crime prevention officer at your local police station or council. They should be able to provide you with much more advice. Find out what forms of crimes businesses in your area are most vulnerable to and how you can better protect yourself. Forms of online or cyber crime continues to affect many businesses these days. Speak to your IT provider about how you can protect your business from this type of crime.

10 Undertake regular checks

Crime changes because criminals know they need to find different or more sophisticated methods if they are in to stay 'in business'. Make sure that your security measures remain up to the challenge. Do this at least once a year and always remain open to suggestions from your staff about how you can better protect your business.