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Catch me if you can

13 March 2018

Company warehouses are often the target for both opportunistic and organised crime Brendan Musgrove explains how an agile approach to the security of these premises is key.

WHILE A robust, yet fairly static approach to security may deter only the opportunist, it will not deter the organised criminal. Catching these is a like a game of ‘cat and mouse’ with the problem at hand ever changing. 

There are three keys steps that I believe should form the foundation of every security solution. The first step is that the security provider and client need to have regular reviews where the type of loss issue at hand is discussed and proposals for addressing agreed. This will enable both parties to change the emphasis of the service to respond quickly to any changing patterns or threats. Sharing data and information is key to success.

Secondly, the supplier then needs a level of flexibility to put these plans into play, often at short notice, which may involve moving officers around the site, or indeed drafting in additional resource. Therefore, it is also important that the supplier has a deep resource of well-trained officers to draw upon as needed.

Finally, while all officers should be well trained, there is a time and a place for an ‘elite’ resource to be called upon when needed to undertake specialist covert activities or enhanced searches. Once these parameters have been agreed it is time to address the specific problems.

Staff thefts

There is an estimated 5% shrinkage rate in warehouses and depots caused by staff thefts which can put a big dent in company profits, especially in the current economic climate where margins are tight. These are a mixture of opportunistic and organised crime. Sadly, this problem shows no sign of abating, as in recent years the tactics being deployed by potential thieves have become more sophisticated.

The challenge for companies is that inevitably all their staff tend to become very familiar with the buildings they are working in and the security measures that are in place. They have first-hand knowledge of how the manned patrols operate, where the technology such as CCTV is located, and where the valuable stock is located. All this makes it relatively easy for a potential thief. 

Also, many seasonal staff tend to work across several warehouses in a region and are able to identify the least secure. Those with criminal intentions will exchange information and tactics and sometimes work in collaboration to successfully smuggle goods out of the warehouse.

The drivers know that there aren’t the resources to search every vehicle and just simply wait until another vehicle has been stopped before adding ‘stolen’ items or failing to scan certain parcels to their vehicles. Once out of the premises the parcel is lost.

Also, who is the thief, the customer, the delivery driver or the organised gangs that follow certain delivery vehicles targeting the leave safe locations and just taking the goods once the driver has left them in a garage, outhouse, etc.

Extra precautions 

Although vetting procedures such as checking employment history are employed when recruiting staff to try and avoid taking on risky individuals, such measures will not prevent all theft. And while designs of warehouses have evolved to feature increased technology and multi-level access control including turnstiles, cages and locked-off areas for high value items, such precautions can only go so far.

In response to this our security solutions have had to evolve. While technology remains key and the traditional model of having static security teams on site is still very effective for some organisations, we are increasingly recommending to clients the use of ‘high impact teams’ to complement or even replace these.

Our ‘high impact’ teams have been trained to the highest standards in search and covert techniques and understand how to profile offenders. Rather than undertaking scheduled searches these teams turn up onsite unannounced to check areas such as property and lockers, in addition to staff and contractors. They are often acting on ‘intelligence’ and tip offs and use the latest technology, such as body cameras, to record evidence that is vital for building cases.

Tracking vehicles

As well as searching vehicles as they leave the depot, they can also deliver covert monitoring of drivers on their rounds, often alerted by the GPS that shows that an employee has gone off route, possibly to offload stolen property. In short, the thieves have no way of knowing when or where the teams will appear.

This approach has proven extremely effective. In fact, in the past four years our high impact teams have been responsible for discovering over 3,000 thefts across a range of clients that have resulted in employees being dismissed and in some cases the police making arrests. 

For one client we saved over £2million per annum in static guarding costs, which they have partially reinvested in having much greater national coverage from our teams. Organised crime has also been involved with various drivers having the same handler and having a set amount handed over for stolen goods with the handler then responsible for moving them on.

It is also a solution that will work for smaller sized businesses that often struggle with the costs of a traditional security solution. They can buy as many high impact searches as they need without any long-term commitment, at a fixed price, and can easily ramp this up or down in line with any changes in their business.

At Cordant Security we always work in partnership with our clients to try to keep one step ahead of the criminals. Our decades of experience in the warehouse sector give us the ability to offer intelligent solutions and we are determined to rise to the challenge of reducing and even eliminating shrinkage. Our high impact teams are certainly helping drive down losses for our clients and I believe that many organisations could benefit from this same approach.

Brendan Musgrove is managing director at Cordant Security