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How to Protect Your Vacant Commercial Property from Anti-Social Behaviour

How to Protect Your Vacant Commercial Property from Anti-Social Behaviour
How to Protect Your Vacant Commercial Property from Anti-Social Behaviour

This article tackles antisocial behaviour in and around vacant commercial property.

We’ll examine what it is, and how it can affect your portfolio business. Also, offer sine actionable advice on how to safeguard your assets and investment.

We’ve been there.

With over 30 years’ experience in buildings and land security, there are almost no disruptive or disagreeable activities that the Clearway team hasn’t experienced or dealt with; all human life is here.

And some of it hasn’t been pretty.

As a commercial landlord or property manager, you’ll undoubtedly want to stop antisocial behaviour in its tracks—or, at the very least, reduce it. It’s impossible to be everywhere all at once, but you’re aware of its damage and how costly the knock-on effects can be. Here’s your in-one-place guide to what you need to know.

Heroes and Villains

It’s easy to discriminate.

To be fair, most of us unconsciously do this every day. Despite being kind, considerate souls, we can’t really help ourselves. The human condition, it seems, involves a fair degree of black-and-white thinking.

What we mean is this:

Some people are “good”. Others, less so. We think this…or that; these are our beliefs, and we’re sticking to them with no shades of grey in between. In other words, most of us consider anti-social behaviour a destructive, harmful, toxic thing. Perhaps that’s it’s a shameless series of acts committed by those dedicated to damage and destruction, with no remorse or empathy.

While this may be true, exactly how or why it happens is not wholly understood. The whys and wherefores are part of a complex topic which we won’t cover here.

But, this much is known:

Antisocial behaviour happens. It is an unfortunate fact of life. Likewise, whatever its origins, it’s exceptionally awful, and owners of empty commercial properties wage war against it.

What Exactly IS Antisocial Behaviour?

According to the Metropolitan Police, there are three main categories:

  1. Personal – when someone targets a specific individual or group
  2. Nuisance – where a person causes trouble, annoyance or suffering to a community,
  3. Environmental – people’s actions that affect a wider environment, such as buildings or public spaces.

Regarding security for vacant commercial properties, points (2) and (3) are particularly relevant. The police have further refined these definitions to categorise antisocial actions by deeds, or types:

  1. Noisy neighbours or loud parties
  2. Vandalism and graffiti
  3. Loitering and threatening behaviour
  4. People using or dealing drugs
  5. Litter and fly-tipping (including discarding drugs paraphernalia)
  6. Drunkenness in public

Again, if we’re talking numbers, all of the above-mentioned issues (with the exception of the last one, maybe) can apply to an unused factory, shop, warehouse or public building

Antisocial activity can also include some horrendous illegal activity – dog fighting, for example, which has been linked to empty properties in urban areas. Another instance, with apologies for the bluntness, is using an empty premises as an on-the-go toilet stop. Inconsiderate, harmful behaviour can also reduce profitability and create fear.

And did you know that even if those making a mess are caught, the clean-up costs will be your responsibility?

The Extent of the Problem

While the government’s latest initiative in its levelling-up agenda includes plans and funds to breathe new life into empty shops on the high street, for example, the statistics are still stark:

It’s fair to say that antisocial behaviour has fallen from its height during the pandemic. But, it’s still a prominent issue, and everyone loses: you as a landlord, the environment and the community.

Protection and Security

Clearway’s objective is to ensure your property remains safe and secure when awaiting its new occupants.

We fully recognise the challenges that criminal damage and antisocial behaviour pose to your business and can recommend tailored solutions to address what has become a developing problem. These include measures that deter, prevent and detect illegal activity, including high-definition evidence you can use for evidence.

Here are some recommendations and guidelines:

Firstly, Conduct a Risk Assessment

Your initial engagement with Clearway will always involve an in-depth, in-depth analysis and review of potential weak spots.

Antisocial behaviour is often opportunistic, so identifying areas where these ad hoc chances could exist is a powerful way to start. We’ll also examine your current security. You’ll receive a detailed written report with guidance and recommendations.

  • CCTV

Most likely, a significant element of your must-have security strategy will include commercial CCTV. 

We’ll ensure that they’re set up to be apparent and obvious. Why?

Because Installing them in plain view makes it harder for graffiti artists and fly-tippers to “do the do” when they know they’re being watched – and recorded. CCTV cameras work all day, every day. “Antisocials” will soon become aware of the cameras’ ability to pan, tilt and zoom. And, they’re extremely flexible and adaptable: they use high-tech Wi Fi technology and can be solar-powered, battery or mains-powered.

  • Video Alarms

Again, using batteries and mobile phone technology, video alarms take pictures of an incident, combine them into a 10-second video clip, and forward it to a monitoring centre or directly to you for further action if necessary.

This clever technology enables you to record a stern voice warning; an audio challenge to warn people not to engage in antisocial behaviour.

  • Wireless Alarms 

These are ideal in a location without phone lines or mains electricity. They’re activated by intruders (or any other activity), with our NSI Gold Standard monitoring centre alerted and able to implement the most appropriate protocols.

  • Lighting

We’ve written about the importance of strong, effective lighting before, and you can read about it here. Lighting is so critical, not least because antisocial activity gravitates towards darkness. There are different types of lighting, all offering protection to those needing it and a strong deterrent to those who don’t.

And now, let’s get defensive:

  • Steel Screens and Steel Sheets

The doors and windows on your empty commercial property are vulnerable, and determined intruders can force their way in almost anywhere.

Except that is, where there are steel security and steel screens to block their way. These are fitted to the outside of the property, completely covering each window and frame. Where there are awkward-shaped openings, Clearway can install hand-cut steel sheets

Both options let in light and air – perfect for good ventilation. What they don’t let in are trespassers, burglars and the like. It is the best part of impossible to force them open.

  • Keyless Steel Doors

Only allowing access to authorised personnel via a keypad PIN code, these doors can replace your existing ones. They’re heavy-duty. No one is getting through these.

Also, consider the following:

  • Prohibition signage to warn against antisocial behaviour, intrusion and loitering. It’s worth mentioning that advising of CCTV cameras when they are present is a legal requirement.
  • Fencing – literally, to keep people out and protect areas of concern; you know you mean serious business here, so it must be of a certain height, and completely impenetrable.
  • Security guards and guard dog services are a constraining presence – and exceptionally off-putting. Both are highly trained in person-to-person scenarios (or dog-to-person) and can prevent people from accessing the property or encourage them to move on.
  • Bollards and blocks to prevent vehicle or pedestrian access.
  • Keep the property in good condition. You may have heard of Wilson and Kelling’s “Broken Window” theory. It argues that the first line of defence in protecting a property is its upkeep.

We agree. Poorly maintained vacant buildings will almost certainly imply that no one cares. Thus, vandalism, graffiti and other criminal activity are much more likely to occur. Deterioration could point the way to a greater tolerance of disorder.

vacant property checklist

Some Takeaways from Clearway

  • Despite being billed as a “low-level crime”, we think the opposite: it can have a raft of negative social, health and financial impacts – not least depressed economic activity.
  • Talk to us about an initial assessment; our security consultants are independent and nonpartisan. With a detailed, easy-to-read report, you have an excellent foundation on which to build your strategy for looking after the building when it’s empty.
  • Antisocial activity can be “outside-in” – individuals throwing bricks and spraying graffiti, for instance. And, “inside-out” – occupying squatters causing damage and destruction, leaving unsanitary rubbish behind, or using drugs.
  • Your three mantras here are as always: deter, detect and deny.
  • We may empathise with those responsible for antisocial behaviour due to their backgrounds and issues. Yet, we condemn its effects and how it touches the wider community. While the government is tackling this issue with gusto, Clearway offers you a tailor-made security strategy for best results. Steal a march. Contact us to find out more.



Gideon Reichental

Vacant Property Security Consultant

Gideon is an experienced property specialist with a commitment to excellent customer service and support. With over eight years dedicated to the niche field of vacant property security and services, Gideon has been at the forefront of developing and implementing best practices and successful strategies for safeguarding vulnerable properties, demonstrating a profound understanding of the complexities involved. His hands-on experience includes managing portfolios of over 200 vacant properties directly, alongside senior management roles overseeing broader portfolios that encompass more than 2000 properties.

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