Real Cops        Real Crime        Real Advice               





Commercial Burglary & Robbery Prevention Tips

By John M. Carpino

The following tips and suggestions were written primarily with the retail shop keeper and restaurateur in mind. Many of them however are valuable no matter what your business is.

Key Holder List

First of all make sure the local police dept. has a list of authorized personnel with a key for after hours contact. If the police suspect something is out of the ordinary and the business is closed, they need a means to contact either the owner of a key holder. If you have an alarm company they will have access to this information, but the police may not know of your current alarm company and be unable to contact you in the event they need to do so.


Install cameras in areas where you suspect a theft may occur. If dealing with cash, such as the case of a fast food business or convenient type store, install a camera to view the register and employee activity. Every business owner like to think that they have hired honest, trustworthy employees, yet we have seen time and again employers getting ripped off by their own employees. You may want to install a camera such as a pin hole type without the knowledge of the employees. If they are aware of the camera they will simply operate with their back to the camera or otherwise block the view. You will also want a camera to view customers in the event of a robbery or short change scam. Always have the cameras connected to a video recorder. You must keep a tape of what the camera captures and not simply monitor the activity captured by a camera. A tape is a great tool for the police to use during an investigation. A long playing time- lapse VCR is best. Rotate a tape every seven (7) days so you at least have a copy of the past weeks activity. Bad guys might visit your business one day and return the next to commit a robbery after they have cased out the place. A bad guy might even return after hours to commit a burglary, which would be caught on camera/tape.

Keep the tape in a secure area so employees or the bad guy can't obtain the tape and destroy it. A camera and tape are of no value if it was turned off or did not have a fresh tape. Make a schedule for tape rotation and follow it!


It's a good idea to have an alarm system in place with a panic button for holdups. Have a predetermined code with your alarm provider in the event you are caught off guard and forced to call your alarm company by the bad guy as you open or close for the day. If you have a predetermined code the alarm company will be able to alert the police that you are in distress and the police will handle the matter accordingly.

Most police agencies now have an ordinance that requires a business to pay a fine for false alarm activations, so keep them to a minimum. Too many false alarms give the police the impression that it's just another false alarm at your establishment.
Depending on the size and nature of your business you might want to invite the police to view the interior of the building so they have prior knowledge of the lay out in the event they were summoned.

Also check with your local police and see if they offer a crime prevention service to survey your business, both inside and out, and make recommendations to make your place more secure and safe.


It is a good practice not to empty the trash after dark if at all possible. If you need to do so make sure two (2) people are assigned the task. Often stick up guys wait until  closing time and wait for an employee to empty the trash. Once encountered at the outside trash area the bad guy will re-enter the business with the employee. The rest of the story is for you to tell the police.

Make sure if you have a large walk in type freezer to have a means to exit in the event the bad guy locks up all of the employees during the robbery. The walk in freezer is a favorite place for robbers to lock up employees. Install a panic button to alert your alarm company and have an emergency release available to allow employees to exit.

Outside Bell/Speaker

Install a bell for delivery people or visitors to gain entry. In addition, have a camera with a monitor to view who is at the door.
An inexpensive bell with a speaker and inside receiver with a transmitter can easily be installed and purchased at a local electronics store. It allows you to communicate with the delivery people/visitor and verify who they are, before you open the door to danger.
Bad guys work during the early morning hours, and may arrive one day purporting to be exterminators, you know the one you didn't hire, and once they are allowed to enter their real intention will soon be very clear.
Bad guys even represent themselves to be potential customers at local restaurants and ask to see a room suitable to accommodate a party. You know the rest. It would be a good policy  not to allow any such potential customer to enter prior to your normal business hours. Don't be too surprised if you fall victim to one of these stick up guys, as they do show up dressed to kill !


If an employee is terminated due to a theft or related problem you should change the locks if this person had a key and you are unsure if you have received all of the keys in question. Also change the code with your alarm company, to prevent any former employees from having access to your building and business.

Windows - Doors-Lights

Leave some lights on inside your business overnight for the police to observe inside activity. In the event you discover a burglary call the police immediately, don't clean up the mess.  You may destroy valuable evidence.   After the police do their job, you can clean up. Whether you have an alarm or not you may want to consider investing in gates to go across your windows. This is especially important if you leave valuable items and merchandise in a window display. You may leave items on display overnight and you feel it is safe as long as your alarm is activated. I can't tell you how many times a smash and grab team will drive to a different community every night, until caught,  and commit a smash and grab job. The offenders will throw any easily available object through the window and quickly remove items on display. The sounding alarm will alert the bad guys that they only have a few minutes to work with before the alarm is received and the police are dispatched. Gates don't look attractive, but either does the mess left behind by the burglars.
The police can't possibly be everywhere at all times and the thief knows the odds. It is possible for the police to come across a smash and grab type burglary in progress while on patrol and then the score is COPS1 BAD GUYS 0. The odds are more in your favor however, if you harden your business against the smash and grab.

Bank Deposits

Consider having two employees make the late or early deposit so there is no question if the money made it to the overnight bank drop. Employees have been known to report a fake robbery in order to take the days receipts.  Even the most trusted employee can run into a financial problem that causes them to make a wrong decision. One person puts cash in a safe at closing time and another opens the same safe the next morning and reports the cash missing. Who did it, the night employee or the morning employee? Now what? Did the night employee place the cash in the safe? Did the morning employee take the cash and report it missing? Using two employees to make deposits will reduce the chance of your receipts coming up short.

Use an armored car service if at all possible to keep your people out of the business of making deposits of large sums of cash.

If you insist on making your own deposits with your own personnel then don't get into a schedule of making the deposits at the same time each day or night and don't advertise by using a bank bag. Even if you are able to walk across the parking lot to the bank during the day, do not set a pattern.  A bad guy can simply drive up and demand the money, its as simple as that. People get desperate = people get stupid = people get dangerous.

If you suspect something is out of the ordinary then its time to call the police and either pass on the information or request to see an officer if necessary. Don't wait until the next day to alert the police of an incident that could have been prevented had you called the police the day before. The last time I checked we weren't charging for police service; not yet anyway.


Take part in your own Safety/Security

You are the eyes and ears in your community. Call your local police department's Crime Prevention Officer for more information and tips to make your business safe.

Send mail to with questions or comments about this website. Copyright 2000 

    Hit Counter