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As empty properties remain extremely vulnerable to illegal entry, theft and damage, the Metropolitan Police has released an 8 point safeguarding guide to help property owners better understand how to reduce the risks. Following this advice should help reduce cost, stress and time involved in dealing with a break-in.
Overall, the advice boils down to three main areas:
- Identifying risks
- Reviewing security measures
- Protecting the premises
We’ve summarised the key points of the advice document below.
1) Carry out regular security reviews of your property portfolio
As property portfolios changes, so too will potential associated risks. The most effective way to review whether additional security provisions are required is to use a systematic approach to analysing the risks posed to each empty premises.
- Begin by looking at the outer boundaries of the site, working inwards and identify obvious risks and vulnerabilities along the way.
- Look at empty spaces and where these are positioned.
- Include an analysis of any outbuildings and structures within the site.
2) Maintain Strong Boundaries
One of the more effective ways to prevent access to a site is to systematically eliminate obvious entry points. There are multiple options for creating an impenetrable-as-possible boundary that should prevent people or vehicles from gaining access to an empty site.
- Blocking off unnecessary access points.
- Using reliable security gates and locking systems which are correctly aligned with the boundary fencing.
- Raising the height of the boundaries – we advise working to a height of at least 2.1 metres to deter intruders.
The local planning office will be able to offer support when selecting the most appropriate form of boundary control, as height restrictions will vary in different locations.
When considering security fencing, there are a variety of options. The most suitable for an individual property or site will depend on the location and highest risk scenarios. Climb-deterrent fencing using extended toppings, such as weld mesh, is an excellent solution for helping to prevent intrusions.
Security fencing can also be fitted with lighting and acts as an extremely effective deterrent against undetected access. Good security lighting provides an added level of safety for vacant premises.
3) Substantial Surveillance
Having a highly visible security presence is another strong deterrent to would-be vandals. Visible security may be in the form of security guards or dog patrol units which means intrusions can be swiftly identified and reported to the authorities or monitoring station as required.
Security guards should be fully accredited, trained and professional individuals. They will quickly identify security risks and suspicious behaviour and are typically in close communication with a monitoring station who will deal with any issues quickly and efficiently.
Alongside professional security personnel, surveillance can be reinforced with:
- Quality CCTV systems – these should always be installed by professionals who will be experienced in determining the best possible location for cameras devices in the best way to maintain a steady overview of the site, and those most vulnerable areas.
- Robust surveillance equipment that cannot be easily removed, vandalised or damaged – our recommendation is to use only accredited CCTV.
- Specialised lighting systems that are capable of providing a sufficient level of illumination (in accordance with BS5489-2013). Lighting needs to be bright to enough to clearly illuminate the faces of any intruders. It is, therefore, best to avoid the use of bollard-mounted lights solely, partly because they provide insufficient lighting levels and partly because they are exposed to the risk of vandalism.
4) Prevent Vehicles from Breaching Site Boundaries
Potential intruders will naturally gravitate towards sites that allow vehicle access because any vacant property that can be reached by a vehicle is immediately more vulnerable to thefts of equipment and materials, and fly-tipping.
Paying particular attention to the integrity of boundaries and any existing perimeter security is essential.
Help prevent vehicular access by:
- Removing access to ditches or earth mounds.
- Installing heavy-duty concrete blocks. (see concrete barrier blocks here)
- Strategically placing security bollards.
5) Intelligent Site Design
Empty spaces between buildings, forecourts and outbuildings make a vacant site more exposed to criminal activity. Consider the layout of the site and where large empty spaces can be blocked or filled, which ensuring fire safety regulations (for emergency service vehicle access) are adhered to.
Options to make good use of the space, while safeguarding the premises, include:
- Parking for vehicles or trailers.
- Letting out forecourt space to other businesses.
- Using the capacity for storage or freight solutions.
- Preventing easy access to buildings by parking vehicles close to entrances.
6) Use Forensic Marking
This type of security measure uses a proprietary, invisible marking system to improve security and protect vulnerable equipment. Using highly visible signage warns potential intruders of the presence of forensic marking, as both a deterrent and to show that the site is well protected.
Forensic marking uses unique DNA coding, typically in the form of a liquid that is applied to individual objects. The liquid may be incorporated into a DNA spray system which can be installed in conjunction with intruder alarms.
7) Disconnect Utilities
One potential measure for long-term vacant premises is to remove the utility supplies such as electricity and water.
Squatters are less likely to consider breaking into a property without utilities, although it does have an impact on your ability to install alarm systems or CCTV surveillance.
8) Implement onsite security measures
Buildings, warehouses, storage units and other structures are particularly vulnerable to illegal intrusion and will benefit most from on-site security measures being implemented.
Measures that can be implemented to safeguard properties include:
- Installing security accredited shutters or grills on doors and windows (see vacant property screens).
- Securing external doors (see vacant property doors here)
- Adding timer switches so that potential intruders believe the building to be occupied.
- Using professional quality monitoring alarms (see vacant property alarms here).
Much of the above is common sense and available tall property owners. This guide should be used as a checklist to determine the most appropriate requirements for providing security that is situation-appropriate and sufficiently robust to keep intruders out.