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Preventive Maintenance for Sweepers

Theft Prevention

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of deterrent.

by Sgt. Doug West Warning - Operation I.D.

Loss prevention and employee theft are business topics deserving of serious discussion. A whopping 40 percent of business failures are due to theft by employees and burglars, and internal loss is a substantial factor in many public works operations. Add to that insurance underpayments due to poor record-keeping, and the upshot is that no organization can afford not to inventory and mark their equipment, and then take measures to safeguard it from theft. Following are some common sense ways to minimize your risk of loss.

First, it's extremely important to have a record of your equipment. As a part of this inventory, list all your real property, including brand names, serial numbers, the price paid for each item, when each was purchased and from whom. Many experts advocate shooting a periodic video of your business premises. In it, show all your equipment and read off any serial and model numbers that appear on them. This method has the advantage of archiving your office in general, as well as the equipment in it. This can prove valuable in the case of fire.

An accurate record can speed the process of reporting loss, and is a good way to keep track of exactly what you have. After you've conducted an inventory, locate a safe place to keep a written or computer record of all the items. If you keep the list onsite, duplicate it at an off-site location.

Marking your equipment is also smart business. Operation Identification is a program sponsored by police departments, and can be a good way to recover stolen items, as well as an effective deterrent to theft. This program involves engraving your business name and phone number, and/or the driver's license number of a principal in the company, onto every tool and piece of equipment at risk.

If your property is properly marked, it can easily be returned to your organization if it's recovered. An inexpensive electric engraver can be found in most hardware or variety stores, and works well on both plastic and metal. There are also hard-to-remove stickers which may be applied. Another effective theft deterrent is to paint all tools a particular, very easily identifiable color. For more information on other methods, call the crime prevention unit of your local police department. The time you invest now may be well worth it in the future.

Another issue to consider is theft prevention, or safeguarding your tools, machinery, inventory and other business equipment. Risk analysis or loss appraisal should be the first step in designing a security layout for your location. Give some thought to determining what, exactly, you should try the hardest to protect. Many police departments offer businesses a commercial security survey at little or no cost. A law enforcement agency can assess your business and then point out any weak areas. This will allow you to address these matters prior to becoming a victim of burglary or employee theft.

The dollar value of your inventory, stock, and equipment will fit into this assessment. You may want to target items which can 'disappear' easily, for instance easily concealed objects such as tools. Size up your potential loss and calculate what you can 'afford' to lose, then decide by what means you need to protect your facility. An honest assessment of your real property and potential loss will help you target the quantity and quality of protection that is best for you. It may make little sense to spend thousands of dollars to alarm and protect a mostly empty warehouse, for example.

Alarms and alarm systems are one of the least labor-intensive security measures. Look for one that is UL-approved. Research your options, and secure at least two comparable bids from reputable security-system companies. It's good practice to call the references each company provides, and also to get firm quotes on all costs, fees, service agreements and training for system use. Ask questions related to ease of use, false alarms, proven effectiveness and service scheduling.

Another security-related business issue to address is good personnel policies. The most effective way to deter employee theft is through employee awareness and training. Establish, post, and adhere to an employee code of conduct. Clearly define what will happen if an employee is caught stealing and make sure to follow through. Develop employee policies and procedures, and implement effective training programs, for both new and veteran employees. Keep good records on each employee, including any disciplinary actions taken. Be fair and uniform in administering discipline, as well as promotions. A good rule to follow is to reprimand in private, praise in public. When you develop these policies, consider having them reviewed by an expert in such matters to confirm they conform to current state and national law.

Not surprisingly, a strong deterrent to internal theft is maintaining the highest possible employee morale. Far fewer employees will steal from an employer they perceive is treating them well. Meet with workers and actively discuss security concerns. Employees will be willing to help you if they don't feel their work environment is a management vs. employee situation. They will understand that if your bottom line isn't reduced by employee and other theft, it will mean more opportunity for wage and benefit increases.

When hiring new employees, the following guidelines will help reduce your company's security risks: Don't hire another employer's 'problem employee.' Check the background of all potential employees. Ask past employers if they would rehire your prospective employee. Brief, candid conversations with previous employers will benefit your company in the long run. Also always conduct thorough exit interviews of current employees, regardless of the reason for termination. These can be very revealing.

Remember: Establishing a loss prevention program is easier than recovering stolen property. Keeping good records streamlines the insurance process in the case of fire, and recovery in the event of theft. Hiring and keeping good employees is much better than having marginal ones on your payroll.

Sgt. Doug West is a crime prevention specialist with a police department in northwest Washington state. He enjoys sharing this type of information in a variety of ways, including writing articles such as this one.

This article is reprinted from American Sweeper magazine, v5n1.

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