The Small Business Crime Prevention Guide

July 16, 2021

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How do I protect my business from crime?

It’s a common question. And for good reason.

The cost of UK retail crime has soared to a record high of £613 million this year. For small businesses, the effects of crime can be particularly devastating. In 2016, the Federation of Small Businesses calculated that the average cost of business crime was £6000.

But there’s a lot that small businesses can do to fight back. Our guide will outline the best practice techniques you can use to prevent:



Credit card fraud



Employee theft

But, before we get into the details of how to protect business from these threats, let’s look at how to create a solid security foundation.

Laying a Solid Security Foundation

Small business crime prevention guide

A good security foundation covers your weak spots. Every organisation has weaknesses. To find yours, you need to assess each element of your business individually. This is best done with a professional risk assessment. Your elements are your:

  • People
  • Premises
  • Data (physical and digital)
  • Equipment


Your staff can be your greatest asset when it comes to keeping your business protected. But only if they know what they’re doing and their role in your security plan. Training is therefore essential. Every member of your team should know:

  • That it’s better to give up cash or goods rather than get hurt trying to protect it
  • How to recognise suspicious behaviour and where to report it
  • To keep as little cash on site as possible and to routinely empty tills
  • How to open and close the business securely
  • How to report a crime


Make sure that you are aware of all possible access points. This includes small windows, hollow roof space and back doors.

If necessary, strengthen doors, fit window locks and install security lighting.

Make sure that you have an alarm and that you put up signs that warn of its presence.

Consider installing strategically placed CCTV cameras and don’t be shy about telling people you have them.


Physical data theft – the theft of computers, laptops, electronic media, portable electronic devices and paper files – is one of the most common and costly business crimes. This means that you need to have policies in place that protect your data. Ensure the security of electronic and physical restricted data by:

  • Locking down workstations and laptops
  • Securing files and equipment when unattended
  • Concealing sensitive papers, computers and other electronic devices when left in an empty office
  • Encrypting all data
  • Shredding paper records when they’re no longer needed
  • Locking laptops in or to something permanent when unattended
  • Deleting all personal identity information when it’s no longer needed and report any suspected data breaches to the ICO.


To secure equipment:

  • Carry out regular property and equipment audits and allocate responsibility for particular items to individual employees.
  • Tag your computers and record all serial numbers.
  • Provide a safe area for cars and bikes.
  • Bolt expensive items to floors and walls.
  • Depending on the nature of your business, you may also want to invest in equipment insurance.

Most crimes against businesses are crimes of opportunity. By ensuring that you have a solid security foundation in place you reduce opportunities and deter criminals.

Burglary Prevention

Typically, only three percent of property is recovered after a burglary. And only one in 10 crimes result in a charge being upheld. This makes preventing burglary much more viable than pursuing charges. Here’s what you need to do to keep burglars at bay.

  1.  Ensure that all outside entrances and inside security doors have deadbolt locks. If you use padlocks, make sure that they are made of steel. Also – remove serial numbers from your locks. This prevents unauthorised keys being made.
  2.  All outside doors and internal security doors should be metal-lined and secured with metal security crossbars. All exposed hinges should be pinned to prevent removal.
  3.  Windows should be equipped with secure locks and burglar-resistant glass. You should also consider fitting metal grates on all windows apart from display windows.
  4.  Make sure that you can see into your store easily after closing and remove all expensive items from window displays.
  5.  Light the inside and outside of your building at night. Focus on doors, windows, skylights and any other entry points. Install covers over exterior lights and power sources to prevent tampering.
  6.  Leave cash register open and empty at when you close, and make sure that it’s visible and well-lit from outside.
  7.  Use a fireproof safe and anchor it securely. Keep it in plain view and leave it open when it’s empty. Lock all valuables in the safe when you close and change the combination whenever an employee who had access to it leaves.
  8.  Purchase an alarm. Contact your local police force and find out which vendors they would recommend. Check the system every day and test when closing.

Robbery Prevention

Robberies are one of the most dangerous crimes to affect businesses. With a threat to employee life and well-being, it’s imperative that you do all you can to prevent a robbery taking place.

  1. Personal contact can dissuade a would-be criminal. So greet every person who enters your business in a personable and friendly manner.
  2. Check the layout of your store and eliminate any blind spots that a criminal may be able to use to prepare in or surprise you from.
  3. Keep windows as clear as possible and ensure that your business is well-lit.
  4. Instruct employees to report any suspicious behaviour to their seniors immediately.
  5. Place cash registers in the front section of the store, where they are easily visible from outside.
  6. Use a drop safe for large amounts of cash and keep smaller amounts of money in the till. Put up signs to alert shoppers of this protocol.
  7. Make bank deposits often during business hours. Use different routes and go at different times of the day.
  8. Make sure your address is visible.
  9. If you’re unlucky enough to be confronted by a robber, co-operate!

Credit Card Fraud Prevention

According to Financial Fraud Action UK, financial fraud losses reached £755 million in 2015. The main drivers of this type of crime are impersonation and deception scams, online attacks and data breaches. Follow these steps to make sure you prevent credit card fraud.

  1. Train each employee how to comply with each credit card company’s authorisation procedures.
  2. Be suspicious of customers who possess only one credit card and piece of identification.
  3. Be aware of customers who make repeated purchases under the amount needed for manager approval.
  4. Be wary of customers purchasing goods that could easily be sold for cash (televisions, smartphones and portable devices, laptops and cameras).
  5. Note down the details of any suspicious customers. This includes their appearance, who they were with, the vehicle they used and the identification presented. Call your local police force and report the incident.
  6. Because criminals may attempt to alter the details on a card, check for faint lettering or numbering beneath the visible characters.
  7. Examine the signature strip. Criminals may cover the card owner’s signature using a new strip which may be removable.

Shoplifting Prevention

Shoplifters cost UK retailers around £335 million every year. Shoplifting can be a real threat if you own a store. To avoid losses, make sure that you deter shoplifters with the following steps.

  1. Ensure fitting rooms are attended. Fitting rooms give criminals the time and privacy required to remove security tags, switch price tickets and conceal items on their person.
  2. Greet shoppers as they enter. To a would-be thief, a simple employee greeting can serve as an effective deterrent since it demonstrates that your shop is well-staffed and that employees are diligent.
  3. Make sure that your shop is kept neat and tidy. This will prevent criminals being able to conceal illicit activity.
  4. Use mirrors to eliminate any blind spots and place goods away from entrances and exits to prevent criminals making a hasty exit.
  5. Keep expensive goods in locked cases and place a limit on how many a customer can ask to see at any one time.
  6. Place the cash register near the store front and keep it locked and monitored whenever your shop is open.
  7. Consider installing an electronic article surveillance system and CCTV.

Vandalism Prevention

In legal terms, vandalism is a form of criminal damage since it involves the damage or defacement of private or public property without permission. It’s a serious crime, and it’s one that costs business owners a lot of money. In the UK, the rate of criminal damage is decreasing. Still, with 1.3 million incidents of criminal damage to personal and household property in the year ending March 2015, you need to do what you can to prevent vandalism.

  1. Use vandal repellent materials such as hard-to-mark surfaces, unbreakable glass, prickly plants and closely planted hedges and fences and walls.
  2. Install good lighting and lock access gates.
  3. Remove any places where a person may hide. This includes trees, shrubbery, stairwells and alleys.
  4. Install CCTV and put up signs telling people that you’re using it.
  5. Clean up vandalism and remove or repair any damaged items as soon as possible.

Employee Theft Prevention

In England and Wales, 10,717 counts of theft by an employee were recorded in 2015/16. Such crimes decreased steadily after a peak in 2003/04. Now, however, employee theft is on the rise again. To prevent employee theft, you should.

  1. Create a document which outlines each employee’s responsibilities, standards of honesty and the consequences of not adhering to the rules. Make sure that all staff read and understand it, and sign it as a condition of employment.
  2. Follow strict hiring practices, contact all referees and verify all information contained in a candidate’s CV.
  3. Maintain accurate records concerning cash flow, inventory, equipment and supplies. Check this regularly or delegate responsibility to a trusted team member.
  4. Control access to keys, the safe, digital records and alarm codes. Change access codes and engrave “do not duplicate” on all sets of keys.
  5. Reward employees for uncovering security problems.


Churchill Support Services is a nationwide security company and a trusted provider of bespoke retail and business security solutions. If you’d like to find out how we can help you secure your business, get in touch.


Andy Farley

Operations Director

Andy is an experienced operations and sales professional with over 20 years’ experience. As Churchill Support Services Operations Director, Andy is responsible for service delivery to new and existing clients throughout the UK, managing the 24 hour control room, the supervisory team and Operations Managers, and for driving efficiencies and best practice standards within the organisation.