GLENDALE, Ariz. — During my career, I saw years when we had relatively low crime, and years when crime was rampant. I learned a lot (the hard way) from those bad years, especially the 1980s when drugs were everywhere in New York.
The best security requires that you make everyone think that your security is sooo good, they’ll choose an easier target. And I mean everyone! The bad guys, the public at large, your customers and your own employees.
Why everyone? Because they will find your weak spot. Your customers or employees may make deals with certain bad guys that they may know. They call them “contracts” in NYC: “Hey, my friend, you want an easy hit? My laundromat doesn’t have any cameras, they close at 10 p.m., and their security is weak. If you do a hit, I’ll get 25% for the contract, right?” Or, “My mat’s owner comes to collect the money every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, at around 11 in the morning. He has a black Honda. You can get him in the parking lot when he leaves.”
Here are some tips for keeping your store secure:
Employees — Always change your alarm codes and entry locks whenever an employee gets fired, quits, or retires.
Individual alarm codes should be given to each employee so your system can identify who’s opening and who’s closing your mat, and when. Instruct them to never give their code to another employee, because they could get “set up” by someone else using their code. Consider it just as important as a password for their bank.
Decoys, Decoys, Decoys! — There’s a special place in my heart for any surprise that frustrates the criminals.
Back in the ’80s, I had one mat where there were drug dealers outside 24/7. Before leaving my mat with coins, I would put them in a bag, then put that in a bag filled with laundry so I could walk out undetected.
Now, how do you protect it when a robber sticks a pistol in your employee’s face, demanding that he/she hand it over? And the employee has no keys to open it up! How do you defuse this? How do you protect that worker?
No problem! Just keep an old computer, DVR, or hard drive behind the counter. Make sure it lights up. Then, if there is a robbery or burglary, let the criminals take it so they can leave without hurting anyone. I especially like attaching a sign, “Video Hard Drive. Do NOT touch!”
You can do the same with a small safe. Put a few bucks in it. Don’t bolt it down. Let them take it, while your real money is somewhere else.
Is your surveillance or Wi-Fi equipment protected in a locked “safe space”? Good!
Alarm Systems — Old phone-based systems are highly vulnerable. All that’s needed is to cut the phone lines that are outside your building. If you can’t protect the wiring to/from your building, you can try a system that sends out a cellphone-type call to your central station monitor. If you use a wireless alarm system, hackers can intercept it, but I’m thinking this is unlikely.
Protect the wiring to your building, including the cable lines that connect to your Wi-Fi. I’ve seen criminals cut the phone/cable lines a few times to prevent the system from sending out signals.
Oh, and make sure nobody can fool around with your electric power as well.
Locking Doors — Lock your doors from the inside after closing. Since mats have lots of ductwork on the roof, some perpetrators will enter through the roof. I had already placed lighting on my roof to discourage that, but one time a perp broke in anyhow. Only this time, all my precautions worked. He triggered two motion detectors on the way down.
We had our “night lights” on, and a roll-down grille as opposed to roll-down shutters on our storefronts, so the NYPD did a pass-by. They looked into the mat and saw our drop ceiling was hanging down at one spot, so they also broke in to send two police dogs inside first. The dogs found the culprit hiding behind a bank of dryers. Because we had locked all our doors from the inside, he couldn’t get out!
It cost him two years in jail. When he got out, we were issued an order of protection from him, but he never bothered us again.
Clear Your Windows — Make sure you keep your windows as clear as possible with 24-hour lighting. Install roll-down grilles. Bad guys don’t like a lot of light, and the grilles allow patrols to see inside. It might make someone nervous enough to choose an easier target. It also doesn’t hurt that you’ll be showing off your mat every night to potential customers.
Install a Drop Safe — Don’t let easy access to cash to build up. Installing a safe protects your employees and your cash.
Make sure you have signs in the two predominant languages for your area that state, “Money is removed from the store every few hours. Employees don’t have access to cash,” or something similar.
Make sure that this safe is bolted down!
Add a PA System — A PA—public address—system is a handy way to remind people that you are watching….even when you aren’t there. Many surveillance systems allow you to not only see what’s going on in your mat, you can add microphones and speakers. Some cameras have that feature built in now.
This is handy for attended mats, but it’s really helpful for unattended mats! A PA system throws them off-balance when you announce something and give an impression of authority.
Check back Thursday for the conclusion!
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].