It’s unfortunate reality that because of the high level of crime in South Africa, it’s imperative that SME owners know how to protect their business, themselves and their employees against crime.
Recent surveys have highlighted the following factors:
- Crime is the biggest worry for SMEs, especially in the sectors of retail, transport (garages), corner cafes and in emerging businesses in previously disadvantaged areas;
- At the present time, there is little confidence about any progress of relief for the future. Many do not see any decrease in crime levels over the next year and a third expect crime levels to rise;
- Burglaries and robberies are the most prominent crimes affecting SME owners;
- In one survey, 54% interviewed had experienced one incident of crime in the past year, 31% twice and 20% three times; with
- The main target being cash and saleable goods
The really bad news is that many have limited or no security systems, mainly because of the expense involved, and many do not have insurance cover. Also, although the actual figures are not known, most reported crimes were only made by those who had insurance cover and needed a case number so that they could claim on their insurance. So the correct figures will never be known.
In the upper market areas, although systems were often in place and the owner had insurance cover, the level of crime was still high because the pickings were much greater and the criminals were taking more risks, especially in retail stores and jewellery shops.
The negative psychological impact of exposure to crime was very evident amongst those surveyed, noting that trauma and stress cannot be measured of course.
What can SME owners do?
The following points are a guide line:
- As a business owner, foster better communication with your local police and insist on a follow up by the police;
- Keep in touch with your local neighborhood watch;
- Have a good relationship with other owners nearby;
- You must know your nearest police station, hospital and fire station and importantly know how to contact them;
- Always be alert and aware of persons in the vicinity of you premises;
- Don’t let persons into your premises without knowing who they are and ensure that they are escorted;
- Don’t have trees, shrubs blocking entrances, windows, fencing etc;
- Try to get finances to assist you with getting systems such as guards, alarms and especially insurance cover in place;
- Report crime even if the perpetrators are not found;
- Don’t keep cash on your premises, lock it away;
- Have a clean desk policy;
- Watch danger periods and protect your staff going to the banks, change their routes etc;
- Don’t leave staff alone at night time;
- Beware of persons looking for jobs;
- Don’t leave brief cases, important documents etc in your car;
- Check out your staff carefully before employing them, with proper background checks – they may be in league with criminals;
- Employee relationships are vital – create a positive work place and lead by example;
- Ensure your premises are totally secured at night time, weekends etc;
- Have good lighting in and outside your premises;
- Do you prosecute staff who steal? There are many reasons for saying no, but I believe that the right course of action is to prosecute. However, you must go into court with clean hands. In other words, if you yourself are breaking the law – and your staff know – it could prevent you prosecuting, otherwise they will report you as well;
- You have an obligation to protect your staff and their assets;
- Make sure your fire extinguishers are in order and you have first aid equipment available;
- In buying a SME, a security due diligence is necessary – has the seller kept to the law etc.
Understanding threat situations
With regard to specific offences the following points are relevant:
1. Robbery/Hi-jacking situation
- Often the criminal is armed
- Accept their requests – do not argue
- Don’t try to negotiate
- It is imperative to identify the robber in one way or the other – such as language, names if used, weapons being used, kind of vehicle escaping in
- Do not activate alarms unless it is really safe to do so
- Deal with the persons in stress-get help
- And always follow the DETAIL code:
- DRESS – what was the robber wearing
- ETHNIC COLOUR – Skin, complexion
- TALLNESS AND BUILD – Skinny, fat, tall, thin
- AGE – Mid 20s etc
- IMPERFECTIONS – Limp, scars, speech
- LOCKS (HAIR) – Length, wavy, clean, dirty
2. Shop lifting
The increase in shoplifting is a cause for concern. Small shop owners must get professional advice – such as lighting, mirrors, searching etc.
To the small business owner, you don’t want to be a victim of security – precautions are necessary, so put them in place. Get training and learn from others experienced in fighting crime.
Having your own business can give you great rewards, but one of the dangers is crime. Learn how to deal with it, it will be to your advantage.