Many business owners have invested many years of personal labor into their business as well as financing their efforts. This frequently equates to the business owner’s lifetime efforts and the objective for their retirement goals. To reach their lifetime goal of having a reasonable retirement financial status, they need to protect their business in every way possible. This goal requires some proactive strategies to protect their business. A risk assessment is the basis for all safety and security measures to be utilized.
The basic required knowledge is identifying the safety and security risks affecting the business. This strategy is frequently misunderstood by the business owner and is usually predicated on states laws and relevant court decisions pertaining to premises liability. Premises liability is a legal concept that typically comes into play in personal injury cases where the injury was caused by some type of unsafe or defective condition on someone’s property. Most personal injury cases are based on negligence, and premises liability cases are no exception.
Identifying the dangers to a business requires a comprehensive risk assessment conducted by a qualified professional. The risk assessment is also a primary defense to claims of negligent security. The risk assessment covers the business property and the surrounding area that has an influence on the business property. The area adjacent to the business property is important as the business property cannot “be an island unto itself,” and the ease of access by intruders to the property can result in an increased risk.
A comprehensive risk assessment includes documentation of the crimes occurring on the property and in a reasonable area surrounding the property. It also requires an analysis of the safety and security measures employed by the business owner. This includes, inter alia,
- Safety and security related policies and procedures,
- Security guard qualifications and operations,
- Security force and business staff safety and security training,
- Use of security devices and systems,
- Safety and security supervision and management, and
- Incident and activity reporting.
Care must be taken when reviewing law enforcement records. When there is a traffic incident on the public right away, the incident location is normally identified by the nearest building street address. In the case of a temporary residential facility, there may be a problem with customers using the telephone, resulting in a mistaken 911 calls. The 911 calls and the traffic incidents on the public right of way should be removed from the crime totals.
Another factor affecting the crime rate is when the law enforcement officer has discretion on how to handle a reported incident. Depending on the circumstances of the incident, the law enforcement officer may decide a crime did not occur and no report is prepared. The officer may also decide that the incident corresponds to more than one criminal statute, for example, the officer using his discretionary powers may decide the incident was a larceny and not a robbery. This requires a review of the incident narrative to determine the true status of the incident.
Risks may not apply equally over time. For example, some crimes require darkness and normally do not occur during daylight hours. Larcenies from cars in a parking lot are an example of this type of crime. Crimes may not occur in a parking structure where there is evidence of security devices surveilling the area or entry to the parking lot is controlled by a manned toll plaza.
When considering the geographic area to be included in proximity to the property, it must satisfy the court as being reasonable and cannot be constructed in a manner that cannot be justified as having an influence on the property. The neighboring area cannot be manipulated to benefit how crimes affect the property.
There are other factors that influence the crime risk to a property. The demographics of the neighborhood may affect the property in many ways. The crime potential can be influenced by the type of legal and illegal businesses in the neighborhood. A neighborhood where there are bars, lounges, and pool halls draw a type of individuals who have a greater propensity for crime and violence than an upscale neighborhood. The area road net is a factor as it allows for easy access to the neighborhood and retreat from the area following a criminal incident. Abandon buildings in the area are frequently used by the homeless and drug addicts.
The landscaping and design of the building and property are also a crime risk factor. A golf course can expect a higher risk near the far reaches of the course. A lower risk can be expected near the clubhouse where there will normally be a larger number of people. The building design is a risk factor when it obstructs the view of a portion of the property.
One of the greatest responsibilities of the business owner is the safety and security of persons on the property and that staff members know what to do in an emergency. The requisite knowledge is transferred through the business’ safety and security policies and procedures. Policies express the expectations of the business owner, while the procedures state how the business owner expects the policies to be employed.
Having specific policies and procedures does not ensure knowledge by the staff. As many businesses have a multicultural staff, it is necessary to ensure that the policies and procedures are documented in the native languages of all staff members. The policies and procedures should be explained to all new employees during the initial briefing of new employees. A test of the employee’s knowledge should be conducted to ensure that all employees have the requisite knowledge. A review and testing of the staff’s knowledge of policies and procedures should be conducted annually.
Many business owners may believe that their property is adequately protected and decide to forgo a safety and security risk assessment. Hopefully, they will not be a defendant in a negligent security lawsuit, as the cost of a negative case decision can be excessive.
About the Author
William F. Blake, CPP, CFE, is president of Blake & Associates based in Littleton, Colorado, a full-service security consulting and investigation firm. He is a graduate of Michigan State University with a BS degree in police administration and also holds a master’s degree in foundations of education from Troy State University. Blake has more than 60 years’ experience in civil and criminal investigations, bank security, executive protection, loss prevention, disaster recovery planning, counterintelligence operations, security risk analysis, and security training. He is a prolific author with multiple articles in security, risk, and property management publications. Blake is coauthor with Walter F. Bradley, Esq., JD, of Premises Security: A Guide for Security Professionals and Attorneys (1999 Butterworth-Heinemann). He can be reached at www.blakeassociates.org.