What Can You Do About Vandalism on Commercial Property?

Posted by Rick Charney on August 29, 2019

"The high rate of vandalism in Europe and the United States has produced negative effects such as immense financial losses, destruction of priceless art works, reduced public services, and growth of general mistrust," writes Stanley Cohen in "Psychological Analysis of Vandalism."

Vandalism is a real problem for commercial properties. The damage from vandalism not only comes with time and cost of repairs but also affects the working conditions and the general feel of the property. Any kind of graffiti and damage to the building and parking lot makes people feel unsafe. They may not want to patronize the business.

According to Cohen, there are seven types of vandalism:

  1. Acquisitive: Looting to obtain money or property
  2. Peer pressure: Peers encourage an individual to vandalize
  3. Ideological: Further a cause or deliver a message
  4. Vindictive: Revenge such as a disgruntled employee
  5. Tactical: Obtain something other than things such as a bed in jail
  6. Play: Damage resulting from a game such as who can break the most windows
  7. Malicious: Outcome of rage or frustration

Becoming familiar with the different motives for someone to commit vandalism will help you understand the possibilities of why someone may vandalize your property.

How Bad Is Vandalism for Commercial Properties?

The FBI data shows that in 2015, almost 12 percent of all larceny-theft incidences were from buildings. That's more than 680,000 incidences in one year. Commercial theft is a profitable business. One that criminals believe is worth the risk.

The damage or loss will affect business in different ways. It's possible for equipment and vandalism to cost more than the value of the stolen or damaged property.

Here are some probable hidden costs associated with vandalism:

  • Causes project delays because you can't do the job
  • Requires renting equipment to replace stolen items
  • See fewer shoppers and visitors while under repair
  • Hurts reputation and business as property looks unsafe or unsightly
  • Increases insurance premiums

If insurance covers the replacement or repair, it may not happen quickly since the paperwork and approvals will take time.

More worrisome is the number of thefts from motor vehicles, which at 24 percent, accounts for a whopping 1.4 million incidences out of the 5.7 million total incidences in 2015. Commercial property parking lots and garages are ripe for theft as are auto dealerships.

For example, Miami News 7 reports vandals hit more than 20 vehicles on several apartment properties in Miami. After this happened, the residents wanted management to do more to stop this from happening.

The Joplin Globe states that a vandalism outbreak occurred in downtown Pittsburg, Kan. In this case, spray painting appears on more than 50 shops and buildings.

In Fayetteville, two juveniles managed to do $42,000 worth of vandalism damage at a shopping center. According to the CBS17 news story, they went up on the roof and destroyed HVAC and refrigeration systems, breaker boxes, and CO2 tanks. Thanks to video monitoring, the police have identified the suspects. Considering the damage, it's unlikely the shopping center will do any business until after the repairs are done. That's a huge loss of revenue. The story may have turned out differently with the right monitoring solution.

How Commercial Properties Can Prevent Vandalism

Property owners and managers can help deter vandalism on their sites by creating and implementing a security plan. In developing the plan, here are things to include that will help enhance your security.

Post Signs

One way to deter vandalism is to make it clear that it's private property with signs like "No trespassing" or "Private property." That may not be enough to dissuade people who do not follow the rules. A sign like "Area under surveillance" or "Security cameras in use" can be more effective as it shows modern technology might be in use.

Signs are an inexpensive and great first layer of defense. The more layers you have, the fewer the chances of vandalism occurring on your property.

Partner with the community

Your community is a great place to start. Talk to the community and neighborhood associations in the area and ask for their support. They will appreciate a company that wants to connect with the community. Neighbors can become potential witnesses. Build partnerships with local suppliers and vendors as well.

Contact the police department's crime prevention unit. They offer a wealth of information that can help you secure your site. As you choose vendors and contractors, find out if they keep records, provide contacts for after-hours, and whether they would be willing to prosecute if anything happens.

Inventory assets

Keep an inventory of all your assets, complete with serial numbers. Mark them with the business name in a way that no one can easily remove it. If possible, put the information on the property in two places: hidden and obvious. For large and expensive items, consider adding GPS for tracking.

Construction companies should try to end the day with very little gas left in vehicle tanks. Disable vehicles, lock cabs, and use locking caps. Metal and copper theft are rampant because they resell easily at scrap metal yard dealers. Secure all metals and limit how much you keep onsite. If possible, request metal deliveries right before installing them.

Build internal processes

Internal and employee theft is a common occurrence. They know where to find higher-priced items and how to get to them. Employees struggling with finances and bills may feel compelled to do something about it. Their place of employment offers one of the easiest, lowest-risk settings to obtain money and property. Besides that, employees, vendors, and security guards could potentially commit vindictive, malicious, or acquisitive vandalism.

Require criminal background checks on staff, contractors, vendors, and security guards. No exceptions. Conduct security training on a regular basis. It should be part of the new employee orientation. Make it mandatory for employees to always wear visible badges. For construction workers and people in dangerous jobs, find a way to secure the badges to prevent them from causing injuries or interfering with tasks.

It's also important to document the process for when an employee leaves the company or gets fired. This process would include things like removing or changing access codes, deleting their accounts, and taking their badge. In doing this, you reduce the chances of a revenge vandalism scenario.

Implement a Live Video Monitoring Program

In addition to posting signs, you want to place cameras in strategic locations around your property for the best views.

However, just having cameras alone is not enough. To get the most value, someone can monitor and manage them live. Having cameras can be a deterrent but watching them in real time looking for unusual activity is more proactive and should be considered at sites that have repetitive issues.

Trespassers may think the camera quality will never be good enough to identify them. They may be right because some cameras do not have a high enough resolution. When you talk to security monitoring vendors, ask about their camera resolution. Camera technology has advanced to the point where it can make out faces, license plates, and other identifying information. Ask the vendor to show you examples so you can ensure your cameras can do the job. Obviously criminals have the ability to cover their face with masks, sunglasses and hats, which just makes live video monitoring in real time that much more helpful.

An experienced security company can design and implement a security solution customized for your property and business. Retail centers have different needs from construction sites. Same goes for industrial sites, auto dealerships, apartments, and offices. Ask the vendor about their experience in working with your type of business and the special considerations for security.

After installing the right cameras in the right places, trained surveillance operators can monitor multiple locations of your property at the same time. The best security monitoring companies also use video analytics to notify operators of any unusual activity. It adds another layer of security. When they see something suspicious, they can activate the speaker warning to deter the suspects. If the situation warrants it, they will call the police and stay on the line if needed.

How Remote Video Monitoring Deters Vandalism

Rather than explaining how video surveillance is a powerful tool for deterring vandalism, these videos can do the show and tell.

  • Shopping center vandalism: Trespassers enter a shopping center after-hours where one person vandalizes a retail store window. The suspects walk away from the shopping center and (spoiler alert) still gets caught.
  • Industrial property parking lot loitering: An audience watches a truck doing burnouts, aka donuts, in a parking lot. This makes loud noises and damages the parking lot. See how it ends.
  • Apartment loitering deterrent: People loitering in common areas of an apartment complex may not have the best of intentions. Here's how video monitoring helped.
  • Illegal gambling in the parking lot: Even if the business is closed for the day, this negatively affects the business because customers could drive by the parking lot and not want to visit the business.
  • Dumpster diving: See how activating the speaker helps.

Proactive video monitoring can deter unwanted criminal activity and potential damage. Trained operators watch surveillance cameras in real-time from another location. It allows them to see more than a security guard can as well as areas they may not access. When operating monitors see something suspicious, they can warn the suspects on a speaker and call the police.

Deter vandalism on your property by being proactive with remote video surveillance. If you have any questions about live video monitoring as a security solution to protect your property, please contact us.

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