Houston Police Department

Commercial Burglary Prevention

Most criminals are opportunists. Either the victim himself or the victim acting unwittingly in response to a stimulus created by the criminal may create opportunity. A business door being left unlocked after closing is an example of the victim creating the opportunity. On the other hand, the act of armed robbery exemplifies a response-created opportunity. In either case, an awareness of the potential for crime empowers individuals and businesses to act more cautiously, thus, eliminating the opportunity. It requires, for many, to change the way they think and it requires putting a healthy suspicion into our daily lives and activities. It compels us to shed the “blinders” that we unknowingly wear as we go about our day oblivious to the real threats that exist to our daily safety and survival. Businesses can take an active role in reducing criminal opportunity in and around their property by participating in a variety of crime prevention initiatives.

Businesses can reduce their vulnerability to crime in many ways. Security measures like updated locks, lighting, and alarms can make any establishment a less attractive target for criminals. Remember that most criminals are opportunists, and the goal of a security survey is to reduce the opportunity. These methods include, but are not limited to:

Proper lighting eliminates shadows, which burglars use for cover. Light up all points of entry, including those on the roof. Leave lights on inside just as you would do at home.

Install lighting at the front and back in addition to any side doors of your business.

As with windows, check for signs of any structural weaknesses. Use heavy and solid constructions, and material that is drill-resistant. You can also reinforce the backs of doors with crossbars. Be sure the doorframes cannot easily be jimmied.

Secure doors, windows, skylights and other openings with the best possible locks. No lock is burglar proof, but the longer and harder a burglar finds it to break in, the more likely they simply give up or are caught.

Use deadbolts and be sure to change the locks every time an employee with access to them leaves.

Check window frames to see if they are loose or rotting, and ensure that the windows offer visibility.

Arrange merchandise so that a passerby can see into the store. The store employee needs to be able to notice dangers outside and let witnesses see trouble inside. So keep windows clear of obstructions, from stacked boxes on the floor to high shrubs beside the walkways.

Covering windows with bars or grills for added protection may be necessary. Install burglar-resistant glass or use wire mesh or iron bars over all glass.

Reduce how much cash you have on hand after hours. If you have cash or other valuables, keep them in a safe anchored to the floor and that is in an illuminated location visible from the outside.

Change the combination if staff, who are familiar with it, are terminated or separate from employment.

Install and use a drop safe.

Limit how much cash is in the register and post signs saying that a drop safe is used and registers have only limited cash.

Store displays
Keep your expensive merchandise away from the windows, toward the center of the store.

Check ventilation system to ensure it cannot be used to gain entry.

Make sure that fences are high and sturdy enough so they are not too easy to breach. For some workplaces, barbed wire on top of the fence may be appropriate.

Alarm System
Install an alarm system. At least an alarm offers a measure of peace of mind. It is a deterrent to burglars, or forces them to get out quickly if they happen to break in.

Post warnings in clear view that the business is equipped with an alarm, and train the staff to avoid false alarms.

Commercial Parking Lot Security

Whether the parking lot is next to a larger business or is operating as a parking lot business, it is the responsibility of the owner or manager to make the lot as safe as possible. To accomplish this goal, the business should create a security plan to safeguard the lot area. This plan should include:


  • Make sure lot users can find entrances and exits easily.

  • Use signs to remind lot users to take precautions, such as “Secure Your Belongings/Take Your keys/Lock Your Car.” Some garages have sheets of paper at the elevator or stairs that a person can pick up to remind them where they are parked. A person wandering a parking garage is an easy target for a criminal.

  • You can also warn potential criminals through signs like “No Trespassing,” “Security Patrolled” or “Lot Monitored by Video Surveillance”(but only if it is true; you do not want to give a false sense of security).

Emergency Telephones

  • If the parking lot is large, the use of emergency telephones that directly dials security or the local police or sheriffs’ department may be warranted.


  • Alarms, such as duress or elevator alarms, should be clearly marked, and zoned for response so that security personnel can find any breaches quickly.


  • Criminals love anything that will cover their activities, especially darkness. Use sufficient illumination, and replace burned out lights promptly.

  • Have a regular maintenance plan in place for inspecting current lighting and to recommend additional lighting.

Video Surveillance

  • The decision to use security cameras depends largely on the available budget, monitoring capabilities, and the physical environment.

  • For outdoor lots, cameras can give security personnel a feel for what is happening in the general area.

  • Indoors, cameras are particularly effective at elevators, lobbies, entrances and exits, cash/ticket booths, stairwells, or any other area where people stand and wait.

Security Patrols

  • If a security force is available, patrol regularly and vary the patrol times and routes to avoid being predictable.

Facilities Design

  • Paint underground walls white to increase the light levels.
  • Reduce hiding places for criminals and maximize visibility for any patrols (or for potential witnesses to a crime).
  • Keep exterior walls and foliage less than three feet, and trim any tree branches below six feet.

Cash/Ticket Booths

  • Be sure to exercise good robbery prevention techniques since parking lot cashiers are frequent targets of robbery.

Access Control

Even in a restricted lot controlling access is tough. Without turning it into a fortress, you can take precautions such as using pass cards, installing motion detectors to keep trespassers away, and linking emergency doors to the alarm.

Anyone noticing strangers lurking in the lot should notify security or the police immediately. While the business owner or parking lot operator has a duty to protect the area, parking lot patrons must also exercise good crime prevention habits.

To help they should:
- Park in a well-lighted area as close as possible to the exit you will be using.
- Lock the car and roll up the windows all the way.
- Patrons should lock any valuables or packages in the trunk.
- Use an escort to your vehicle.
- Ask the security guard or a co-worker to escort you to your car.
- Have your keys ready for quick entry into the vehicle.
- Check your vehicle for signs of a break-in and for anyone hiding inside.
By taking common sense security steps, you will increase the safety of the parking lot.

Commercial Business Alarms

Business premise security is one of the most important aspects of practicing sound crime prevention tactics. Burglary is a big business and to help prevent it, good locking, lighting and alarm systems play a crucial role in protecting the business’ assets. The latest crime figures available from the FBI show that four burglaries occur every minute of every day. It is no wonder then that many homeowners and business owners are considering electronic alarm protection. Unfortunately, there are some people in the burglar alarm industry who are out to take advantage of the anxious alarm buyer. Therefore, the selection of a proper alarm system is not always a simple matter. The needs of each individual homeowner and business owner are different.

Some questions that should be answered when selecting an alarm system include:

  • What is the system going to protect? - Identify the target of the thief.
  • Where are the possible points of entry? - Doors, windows, roofs, etc.
  • What are the locations and types of sensors needed? - Motion detectors, glass break detectors, hold up switches, etc.
  • How will the alarm notify the authorities? - Through a direct telephone dial, a local annunciation device, central monitoring station, etc.
  • What type of monitoring is needed? - Is it connected to a central monitoring station?
  • Who will be operating the system? - The type and complexity of the user control board.

An alarm system should be simple to operate, designed to fit the lifestyle of the homeowner or the daily operating procedures of the business, and be easily adaptable to any foreseeable changes. An alarm system that does not fit your requirements will undoubtedly end up causing excessive false alarms, and will likely no longer be used.