Coming into the office Monday morning after a restful weekend, the last thing you need is to find that the office has been burglarized over the weekend leaving you without a computer and other office equipment needed to do the job.
Office buildings that are known to be vacant on the weekends and evenings can be a handy target for burglars. But there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risks of burglary or vandalism.
Most often people wait to address security issues until after they have already been broken into, says Jim Harvey, operations supervisor, Day Security, Gulfport. He suggests that businesses that have valuable equipment in the office such as computers, copies, calculators and fax machines, be proactive and consider investing in an alarm system before trouble arises.
“Most businesses do have alarm systems these days,” Harvey said.
Tony Vest, director of Mississippi Security Police in Pascagoula, agrees about the importance of an alarm system. The cost of alarms systems has come down drastically. The systems can be programmed to do any number of things such as set off a loud siren when an intruder tries to enter the building, call police, call business owners, or all three things.
“A sophisticated perpetrator will try to supersede alarm systems, but that is uncommon,” Vest said. “Generally burglars are not what you would call intelligent criminals. Lots of times narcotics are involved. They are just trying to get money to buy drugs.”
A couple of other recommendations are putting inexpensive timers on lights to turn them on and off so it appears someone has been in the office, and window stickers or yard signs that say, “This business protected by (name of security firm).” It also doesn’t cost anything to ask the police department to keep a close eye on the office during weekends when no one is around.
Even leaving a dog dish outside with the name “Brutus” on it could deter potential burglars. Some criminals fear a dog more than a person with a gun.
“There is nothing you can do about a criminal’s intent to commit a crime,” Vest said. “All you can do is remove or reduce the opportunity. You can’t make him change his mind, but you can make it more difficult for him. A large percentage of the time an on-site siren will scare them off. They know someone is likely on the way, and it is probably the police.”
Good building security is also important, says Major Richard O’Bannon, chief of criminal investigations, Biloxi Police Department. Good building security includes good locks, adequate outdoor lighting and an alarm system. He also recommends that PCs and other valuable office equipment be properly marked with the business name or driver’s license engraved into the case.
Failure to mark the equipment and failure to keep a record of serial numbers can mean that even if equipment is recovered, the business has no way to prove ownership.
“The biggest problem we have is people don’t have serial numbers or don’t have computers marked so they are readily identifiable as belonging to a business or person,” O’Bannon said.
“After we recover the equipment, the person who had a computer stolen may not have serial numbers. So it is hard for us to say it is theirs.”
O’Bannon said several years ago there was a rash of thefts of PCs from schools and offices on the Coast. Currently theft of PCs isn’t as bad as it used to be except for laptops, due to the ease of getting them and concealing them.
“It is a lot easier to walk into an office and pick up a laptop off a desk than it is a mini tower,” O’Bannon said. “We’ve had several laptops stolen out of businesses, and some of them have been returned. The way they were returned is that files were found after the machines were sold to other business, and the files led back to the rightful owner.”
O’Bannon said often people whose computers have been stolen are more interested in recovering the data on the hard drive than the actual machines. “Insurance can replace your machines, but the files are the hard thing to replace,” he said.
O’Bannon recommends purchasing a simple, inexpensive lock for securing computers to the desktop. These devices are similar to bike locks, and cost about $20. He also recommends closely guarding expensive laptops in public.
“A laptop is like any piece of luggage,” he said. “Don’t let it wander too far from you or you are likely to lose it. An opportunist might pick it up, and walk off with it.”
Other recommendations include asking the police for a safety evaluation. Most police departments have some kind of crime prevention program, and will come out to give businesses ideas about what they can do to improve security.
Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at firstname.lastname@example.org or (228) 872-3457.