How to Best Protect Your Dealership During Long Closures and Holidays

Posted by Jeff Purtell on December 7, 2021

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, crime tends to peak during challenging times. Using data from the police in 15 countries, the study shows a link between economic crisis and crime. Such times see an increase in robberies, homicides, and car thefts.

This unfortunate correlation is one reason no one was surprised that video surveillance usage soared throughout the pandemic and continues to do so. With fewer people out in public and greater anonymity to potential criminals, , it puts businesses at heightened risk for theft and vandalism. This point, among many other lessons learned by dealerships through the crisis highlights the need to be prepared to secure your lot during longer-term closures and the holidays.

The Need to Increase Dealership Security

The pandemic is not the only crisis affecting dealerships and driving the need for greater security. The automotive industry has been impacted by a simultaneous and targeted crisis with skyrocketing catalytic converter thefts. The two main reasons for the increase in converter thefts (coupled with the fact that it takes only a couple of minutes to steal one) are the rise in catalytic converter values from both inventory shortages and higher values for the metals they contain on the secondary market, where people pay good money for them.

The numbers look unbelievable, but they reflect the severity of the problem. In 2018, there were only 108 catalytic converter thefts per month on average. The following year, the number climbed to 282 per month.

That's not even the worst of it as the National Insurance Crime Bureau reports. By 2020, that number soared to more than 1,200 thefts per month! It still gets worse. In December 2020 alone, thieves stole 2,347 catalytic converters!

Why is this happening now? Why do crooks suddenly want to pilfer the part of a vehicle that converts harmful pollutants to less harmful emissions before exiting the exhaust system? As you may or may not know, the converter contains any one of these precious metals: gold, platinum, palladium, and rhodium. It's these precious metals that sell for thousands of dollars thanks to commodity prices and continued demand on the secondary market.

It only takes 60 to 120 seconds to swipe a catalytic converter. That said, even if thieves only get $200 when reselling the converter, they're essentially earning $100 per minute. If lawbreakers steal 30 of these in an hour, then that's $6,000 for not even a day's dishonest work. Most households don't even earn $6,000 when they work for one month.

Unfortunately, the problems do not stop there. Replacing a stolen catalytic converter is not easy. First, there is a shortage. Thanks to the shortage, the replacement parts come with a hefty price tag or significant delays – which cost money and margin with sales. That's not all, thieves don't care if they damage the vehicle in the process of stealing the converter. Sometimes the repair will cost more than just replacing the converter as other damaged parts need to be replaced.

An automotive dealership is one of the easiest places to grab a bunch of catalytic converters in a short time. Hence, the need for effective security is crucial.

Here's a list of ideas that you need to do to secure your dealership year-round to stay safe through short-term closures and the holidays.

1. Practice Defensive Parking

You can take steps to preemptively block off your lot and make it harder for intruders to enter. The more barriers to entry you have, the more likely the crook will go elsewhere and leave your lot alone. In addition, these blockers can slow potential perpetrators, giving the authorities the critical time, they need to reply to a call.

A simple thing you can do is park blocker cars at entrances, exits, and at the ends of rows or within lots to slow straight line paths. These vehicles will act as physical barriers. You can also park trucks back-to-back or up against the walls to lower the risk of tailgate theft. When you park vehicles closer together, it makes it harder for thieves to steal wheels.

Identify your most expensive vehicles and park them inside your showroom or block them in with other vehicles. You might also consider moving all cars closer to the center of the dealership lot, closer to the building, and near well-lit areas. If possible, unhook batteries to add another barrier. When auto thieves cannot quickly start a car, they will move to the next target in hopes it will be easier.

You can put up another barrier by using motion-detecting beacons and alerts. It is possible to get some that do not require batteries or drain them.

2. Secure Your Building

While the vehicles tend to be the target, there have been incidents of intruders breaking into the building. Create a process that ensures all doors are double-checked to verify they are properly locked and secure. Don't forget about the service bay roll-up doors. Lock up all valuables and documents with sensitive information.

There should never be any documents with sensitive information (or PII) left on the counter or desk anywhere. As soon as the customer signs and reviews any documents, secure them. Do not leave them unattended until the end of the day. Here's why. Information brokers made $426 million simply by selling customer data.

Auto Remarketing reports that a New York City auditing firm survey has found that 84 percent of customers will not return to buy another vehicle from a dealership after their data has been compromised. There's too much at stake not to ensure you take these steps to secure your dealership.

Prior to leaving the dealership, check the exterior lighting around the property to confirm they are working and will stay on all night.

3. Create a Key Management Process

Thieves still use the "smash and grab" by smashing through the glass dealership doors and grabbing a bunch of keys. That is why it is critical to secure your keys in a special key safe. The keys should not be kept where anyone can see them.

You need to document your key management policies and processes. Employees should be trained on this and sign off on the training. Remain diligent about following these policies. In addition, key safes provide a critical layer of security for keyless vehicles where a fob can easily be mirrored to steal a car or enter it if left out in the open.

4. Install Remote Video Surveillance

Most dealership security solutions take a passive approach to security. This means that they may not know something has happened until they show up at the dealership and see something is wrong. An alarm system can go off, but in most cases by the time anyone arrives, the intruders are long gone. Video verified alarms typically speed response time. Fortunately, there's a proactive security solution in remote video surveillance. It relies on a combination of video analytics and trained monitoring operators who have eyes across your entire lot. Leveraging the layers of analytics and site protocols, they can spot, diagnose and act on a situation often before anything happens and deter the perpetrators..

For example, it's after hours at a dealership. Video analytics on each camera identify scene changes on the property that trigger any one of its many programmed scenarios. One of those shows a person walking on the property before he or she reaches the perimeter of the dealership lot. In this case, the video analytics will alert the on-duty monitoring operator who can quickly assess the situation. The security professional can follow the subject around the lot. If this person is just there to browse, then no issue is identified, and action is avoided. However, if the situation warrants intervention, the operator could issue an audio warning over an on-site speaker.

If this doesn't stop the activity, then the operator will call the police while monitoring the person's movements. Typically, law enforcement will arrive before the intruder leaves the property. When police receive a call from Stealth, they know we are watching live activity. This video verification tends to elevate the priority level of the call.

This is one of many benefits of remote video surveillance. It maximizes your security investment by monitoring your entire property at all times or during off-hours and helps deliver a fast ROI.

Here are some videos from several of our customers’ lots to show you what video surveillance can do:

Catalytic converter thefts are escalating at an astronomical rate. It's creating problems for automotive dealerships and other businesses that have property filled with vehicles.

When you work with Stealth, you benefit from our partnerships with police departments across the U.S. and Canada as well as gain access to innovative security solutions. One of the most effective options includes remote video surveillance with integrated analytics and video verification.

The key components of your dealership security depend on your business, location, and property layout. A Stealth security consultant will customize a right-sized solution that fits your requirements and budget.

The holiday season should be a happy one, not a stressful one. Following these four tips will ensure you enjoy yourself and do not worry about the security of your dealership. To learn more about dealership security, pick up this complete guide to securing your dealership lot. Please feel free to contact us with your questions.

Posted in: Crime Prevention, Video Security Systems, Security Tips, Video Monitoring