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Protecting your business

Burglary and vandalism are ongoing security concerns for retail and commercial premises. Crime can also act as a serious barrier to economic development. Direct losses arising from theft, or attacks on property and vandalism, can undermine or risk the viability of many businesses.

bus watchAn Garda Síochána's Bureau of Community Engagement runs a number of initiatives and programmes helping businesses protect their premises, goods, and assets. Retailers looking for further information should download our Retailers Security Information Pack which contains helpful information on the popular 'Business Watch' scheme, various theft reduction and prevention strategies, CCTV, and a Retail Security Guide.

Preventing burglary and vandalism

The physical protection of a retail premises from burglary and vandalism follows the crime prevention principle of ‘protect from the perimeter inwards’. Ensuring that premises are well protected and present a high risk to the prospective offender can reduce the opportunity for burglary. Well-protected premises with good security procedures will deter the criminal from attempting to enter or damaging the premises. In the event of a robbery, the offender will have less time available to commit the crime and the chances of being apprehended are increased.

Here are some actions retailers or business owners can take to help prevent crime:

  • The premises should remain well-illuminated after closing to ensure high visibility and increase the likelihood of intruders being noticed.
  • Grilles or shutters should be considered to provide a solid barrier around the shell of the building to help prevent intruders gaining entry.
  • Some roll-down grilles provide physical protection whilst still allowing window shoppers to see      into the premises.
  • Internal grilles may be fitted which will have a similar level of protection for the premises only leaving the glass windows and/or the doors exposed.
  • Anti-ram bollards, removable during trading hours, may be used in conjunction with shutters or grilles.
  • Laminated glass may be used in the windows to increase resistance to attack.
  • Anti-climb brackets may be installed on conduits, drainpipes etc., to prevent intruders gaining access to the roof.
  • Doors and locks should be fitted and maintained to recognised security specifications.
  • Cash Tills, after trading hours, left open and empty - cash amounts held on the premises should be kept to the minimum in proper security cash safes.
  • Access to the premises should be restricted during closing hours and all keys issued should be inspected on a regular basis. A modern access control system should be considered.
  • An intruder alarm system to standard (EN 50131) should be installed and connected to an approved monitoring station to standard (IS 228/97). Panic Attack Buttons - double push type - for persons operating in cash areas should be included in the systems.
  • All locks and safes should be to a high security quality with a regulated locking/unlocking system established and responsibility for their opening/closing clearly delegated.
  • CCTV cameras should be strategically positioned, in line with operational requirements, both inside and outside the retail premises. The positioning of cameras at all public entrance(s), with captured images of persons to recognition standard, should be paramount, as this will be an important factor in post-incident analysis and the investigation of captured images will determine their subsequent value for evidential purposes.
  • Unnecessary boxes, skips or other obstructions should be removed from the vicinity of the premises – these are potential aids to the burglar and attract the vandal. Within stores, displays and goods should be organised to allow for maximum visibility and accountability. Toilets, storerooms and other possible hiding places should be visited when the store is being locked. If there is a constant threat of burglary or vandalism at the premises, or in the vicinity, the use of a manned security patrol or in-house security may need to be considered.

Opening and closing procedures

Retail opening and closing times are high-risk periods in security terms. The number of employees present, their knowledge of access control and security systems and predictable patterns in arrival and departure make this a particularly vulnerable time for criminal activity.

  • Responsible and designated personnel, preferably two, should be appointed to carry out opening and closing functions. They should try to avoid any regular long-term pattern being followed, as this would allow procedures to be pre-supposed by
  • The names and contact information for all key holders should be available to the Gardaí.
  • The cutting of extra keys or the use of master keys should not be permitted.
  • In cases of multi-occupancy premises, an overall security procedure should be agreed among the parties concerned. 

Cash and security control

Cash has always been a prime target for criminals, and as such requires detailed security plans for its safe storage and retention on a retail premises. Criminals in search of cash are frequently armed with guns, knives or other offensive weapons. In some cases cash robberies have resulted in the loss of life or serious injury.

  • The cash office of a retail outlet should be situated out of view from public areas and as far away as possible from entrances/exits.
  • The office should be access controlled and under CCTV camera surveillance.
  • The cash room should be of solid construction with security standard doors and windows.
  • Where windows are fitted; the glazing should conform to recognised quality and security standards.
  • A high-quality safe should be installed within the cash room and rag-bolted to a concrete floor or chute facility and ideally fitted with a time delay locking mechanism. It should have separate compartments to facilitate prepared lodgements. The opening time of the safe should be varied each day.
  • For greater security, or in large outlets, a pneumatic tubing system can be installed to transport cash directly into the safe from the tills.
  • A Cash Transfer Unit, which facilitates the transfer of cash between the cash office and the Cash in Transit Vehicle, may be built into an external wall of the cash office.
  • A double push type PAB (Panic Attack Button) should be placed on each work position within the cash office.
  • The use of electronic interlocking doors should be considered in high turnover outlets. 

Lodging cash

A reputable cash-in-transit company should be considered to transport all cash in and out of retail premises. Staff dealing with persons from the cash-in-transit company should never hand over money or open any door until they are completely satisfied that the security collection personnel are genuine - if any doubt exists they should contact the cash in transit company directly to verify matters.

Where a cash-in-transit company is not a viable option for certain retailers the following safety guidelines apply:

  • Bank at the closest establishment possible.
  • Vary the times of banking, the mode of transport and the route taken.
  • Only experienced, responsible members of staff, at least two, should be tasked with transferring bank alarm and destruct facilities (e.g. smoke and dye units), should be utilised.
  • Bank, when possible, during daylight hours.
  • Adhere to the insurance cash limits for persons transferring lodgements to banks.
  • Persons transporting cash who become suspicious of other persons, or other activity, should abort their intended arrangements and report to the nearest Garda Station either in person or by phone to seek advice and assistance.

Cash Tills

  • Cash till points should be sited in an area which affords a good view of the shop floor.
  • Till limits should be set and adhered to.
  • The till should be securely anchored to a solid surface.
  • A double push type PAB (Panic Attack Button) should be situated within easy reach of the till.
  • Tills should be manned at all times and if left, even for a short time, should be locked and the keys removed.
  • Only experienced staff should operate tills.
  • Video till security systems which allow purchase verification should be considered where multiple operators utilise the same machine.
  • A guard in the form of Perspex sheeting, or similar, as a deterrent against till snatches should be fitted.
  • In high risk situations bullet resistant screens may be necessary.

Preventing robbery

Any plan to protect against robbery must be designed to secure the safety of employees and customers, reduce the loss and affect the arrest of the criminals. It is therefore most important that a general plan, known and understood by all staff, is adopted. The staff plan can be divided into three sections as actions to be taken before, during, and after a robbery. All employees should be advised as follows:

Action before a Robbery:

  • Provision should be made for the maximum surveillance of public areas, inside and outside the building, by all staff.
  • Any security arrangement which reduces visibility and permits a thief to face a single employee should be avoided.
  • There should be adequate emergency external communication facilities in place. (Alarm Panic Attack Buttons, concealed phones etc.).
  • Liaison should be regularly maintained with local Gardaí on methods used by criminals and security procedures reviewed accordingly.
  • Staff opening and closing the premises should be instructed to be particularly vigilant. They should survey the street before entering or leaving and be particularly suspicious of persons loitering. They should not hold conversations with the door partly to others that all is well by use of a simple code system, e.g. raising or lowering a blind, removal of a card from the window, etc.
  • Advertise, with suitable posters, the security measures in place to deflect potential thieves (e.g. timelocked safes, CCTV, alarm systems).
  • Maintain a package of ‘Bait Money’ with recorded serial numbers.
  • The risks should be spread by avoiding having large amounts of cash in one location. 

Action during a Robbery:

  • Staff should co-operate with the criminal(s) and avoid sudden or unexpected movements, which the latter may misconstrue as an alert signal. Activate any alarm system ONLY if it is safe to do so.
  • Obey. They should do only what they are told. They should not try to overpower a thief, as there may be others whom they have not seen.
  • They should observe closely and look for the unusual: gait, scars, tattoos, earrings etc. and try and make a mental note of the description of the culprits.

Action after a Robbery:

  • Preserve. Contact made by the thieves with all surfaces, tills, counters, floors may leave microscopic evidence behind. This may be fingerprints, cloth fibres, and soil residue. Most probably it will be invisible to the naked eye. It is therefore vital that no cross-contamination takes place by persons unwittingly touching or interfering with the crime scene. Preservation is best achieved by closing the premises and cordoning off the area the thieves have
  • A short written memorandum of all that occurred should be made. Descriptions of the culprits, car registrations and names of customers who may have been present during the robbery should be recorded. This can later be invaluable if a witness is challenged about the accuracy of his or her observations in any subsequent court case.
  • Ideally, all customers should remain on the premises until the Gardaí arrive to commence investigations. It is advisable that media enquiries about the matter be referred to the Garda Press Office. 

Stock Security and Control

Stock security and control within retail and commercial businesses will depend largely upon good co-ordination between management, staff, security personnel, and store detectives. All staff should receive training or instruction to advise them of the security requirements and procedures for handling of stock. The crime prevention advice offered should include the following:

  • Only an optimum level of stock should be retained on the premises, and stock requirements and holding procedures reviewed regularly for security purposes.
  • Responsibility for stock handling should be shared amongst designated staff.
  • Stock loading areas should, if possible, be located away from public areas, streets etc.
  • The loading and unloading of stock should be supervised and all transactions recorded.
  • Stock containers should be sealed and clearly identifiable with security markers.
  • High value stock within the retail area should be security tagged, with electronic article surveillance systems in place, that are selected, installed and operated according to an approved security standard.
  • Stock items in the retail area should carry a tag displaying the name of the shop and the price of the to be charged and the possibility of the stock being purchased elsewhere.
  • High value goods which are easily portable should be kept out of sight at night.
  • Displays which cannot be supervised should be
  • Open displays, and in particular those of high value goods, should not be sited near the entrance/exit
  • Staff should ensure that customer receipts are issued for all transactions.
  • Where there are large stocks of high value goods, the installation of security grilles or shutters should be considered.
  • Stock rooms should be secure, and inconspicuous in décor and location within the premises so as not to attract undue attention.
  • All stocks should be checked on delivery and rechecked in the storeroom. The movement of all stock should be recorded and accounted for by designated staff.
  • Stock requisitions should be checked by some person other than the Issuing Authority.
  • Spot checks should be carried out on stock levels.
  • Visitors to the stock area should be kept to the minimum for work purposes, and always escorted.
  • Loading bays and stock rooms should be locked when not being actively used.
  • Stock rooms and stock loading areas should be under constant CCTV surveillance.
  • The removal of waste/damaged stock should be supervised by nominated personnel and carried out by commercial refuse services.
  • The effectiveness of security systems and crime prevention measures should be regularly evaluated against the rate of stock loss. 


Losses from shoplifting by staff in the retail sector can amount to a considerable percentage of all losses incurred. Good supervision generally helps to deter dishonesty. Retail staff often turn to dishonesty through temptation, or in the belief that they have invented a new way of theft that can go undetected.

  • No member of staff should be allowed to process his/her own purchases, or those of relatives.
  • The times and method of staff purchases must be strictly authorised, controlled and subject to examination.
  • Staff cloakroom facilities should be provided near the staff entrance and employees should not be allowed take handbags/bags onto the selling floors.
  • If a staff uniform is provided it must be worn.
  • Supervisors should regularly check purchases awaiting customer collection to ensure that they are bona fide sales, thus discouraging staff/customer mcollusion thefts.
  • Regular but frequent spot checks at cash points are essential and “No Sale” recordings should be examined.
  • Test purchases should be made by management or security personnel to ensure adherence to company security policy.
  • Senior management should outline to staff the position regarding current stock shrinkages. This will tend to create security awareness and deter dishonesty.
  • There should be a policy of reporting to the Gardaí all cases where staff are involved in dishonesty. 

Preventing customer theft

Loss through customer theft is accepted as a fact of business life for some retailers, but nevertheless making it difficult for the customer or the professional shoplifter to take goods can greatly reduce this problem. The common causes of shoplifting include poorly trained staff, poor management, bad store layout, no security personnel on duty, and inadequate/lack of internal security such CCTV, alarms, mirrors, or security tagging. 

Methods of Shoplifting

Common methods of shoplifting include:

Palming: Stealing small items and concealing them in the palm of the hand.

Switching Prices: Putting price tags from low cost goods onto more expensive goods.

Steaming: A large gang enters a shop, intimidates, threatens or distracts staff in order to steal large quantities of goods before running off. It can be dangerous to tackle these people, as they are likely to resort to violence.

Staff Collusion: Staff working in conjunction with the thieves by turning a blind eye to theft or colluding in the

Other methods can be the use of belts, special pockets in the inside lining of coats, wearing baggy clothes, brief cases, shopping bags, prams, and children’s buggies for concealment purposes. The professional shoplifter will try to overcome electronic security devices by removing tags in changing rooms, by stealing a de-tagger from the shop or using foil-lined bags. Attentive staff are the best asset in shoplifting prevention. Staff should be encouraged to be observant, and made conscious of the risk of customer theft. Too often this is left to security staff alone. Well-trained, alert staff can prevent a large proportion of theft.

  • Staff should be trained to recognise thieves, as the thief will always be watching staff or looking around the shop rather than at the products.
  • They should know what to do if they see a customer acting suspiciously; making a customer aware that he/she has been noticed will often be sufficient.
  • Staff should use normal sales approach such as “Can I help you?” or make themselves busy near a suspect.
  • If a theft has already occurred, staff should keep the suspect under observation and alert other staff, security and call the Gardaí.

CCTV cameras will deter some thieves and can help to prosecute the more daring ones. The cameras should be highly visible with warning signs on display. A camera should monitor the entrances to the shop to record thieves entering. Recordings may become evidence and must be kept under lock and key in an appropriate 

Dealing with a Shoplifter

When a staff member or a member of security detects a case of shoplifting he/she should act as follows:

  • The suspect should be kept in sight at all times.
  • The staff member should be absolutely sure that a theft has taken place and that the suspect has the item stolen in their possession.
  • It may be necessary to allow the suspect leave the shop to confirm that a theft has taken place. The suspect should not be approached until he/she passes the final cash point and heads for the exit.
  • At this stage, the suspect should be approached, asked if they have forgotten to pay for the item(s) subject of the suspected theft and asked to come back into the shop to an interview room away from the view of other customers or staff.
  • If possible two staff members should be involved in the process at this stage. The suspect should be given an opportunity to explain and produce the items involved. The staff member has no power of search and should call the Gardaí at this time.
  • The staff member should record details of the incident, and the date and time in their notebook. When the Gardaí arrive at the scene they will then take charge and may arrest the offender if an offence is disclosed.
  • All retailers should have a policy of prosecuting all identified shoplifters. It is one of the only deterrents available to them.

For further information on how to protect your business, check out An Garda Síochána's Retail Security Guide. 

Current legislation in Ireland

The law in relation to shoplifting is contained in:

  • The Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001.
  • Criminal Law Act of 1997- “Arrestable Offence”.
  • Criminal Justice Act, 2006, and
  • Criminal Justice Act, 2007.

These Acts can be viewed on www.acts.ie