Shopkeepers have always had to have an eye to their own security. While any homeowner can simply shut their doors to strangers, it’s retailers and service providers who have to keep their doors open to all comers in order to make their living. We’ve all seen the hand-written crime prevention signs saying “no more than 2 schoolchildren in the shop at one time” and felt the indignation of the young. But the store holder clearly felt that insulting and alienating what is probably a large part of their passing trade, by implying that they couldn’t be trusted if not closely observed, was worth it.
Today we’re much more familiar and comfortable with CCTV cameras than we were in the past. We understand that observation protects us, notwithstanding some people’s paranoia about mass surveillance and government intrusion. With police cuts there are fewer police on the beat, and city centres are overstretched at night over the weekend, so CCTV monitoring is in place to deploy police where they are needed the most, breaking up disturbances and preventing assaults more efficiently than patrolling the streets, despite this having the notional effect that the police are now paramilitary, while ‘community policing’ has gone by the wayside.
We think nothing of the monitor on the wall behind the counter which lets the staff see along the aisles of our convenience stores and supermarkets, or the cameras in launderettes which let the management know if their shops are being abused while the staff are not on site. This form of crime prevention also protects people who are on site, especially in fast food outlets which are open late at night. Many of us have felt threatened or uncomfortable when drunk patrons behave badly in the chicken shop when we’re picking up a tasty treat for the walk home after a night out.
In Brighton a chip shop which had suffered a spate of break-ins recently had Smart Security installed. The CCTV cameras were there to not only record any incidents which happened on the premises, but they also alerted the shop owner when people were on site out of hours.
CCTV Captures Criminals
In the CCTV footage a burglar can be seen smashing the window of the door to the shop, running away, and when he realises all is clear he comes back and makes good his entrance. While he’s in the shop the owner activates the security shutters which close behind him, trapping him on the premises. After ransacking the till he looks around for a way to make his escape, but finding none, he is forced to wait until the police arrive.
Video courtesy of Brighton and Hove News
After appearing in court the burglar was ordered to perform 80 hours of work in the community, pay £120 for the damage he had caused and a £90 victim surcharge along with costs of £80. The shop owner said that he was glad that the £1400 shutters had paid off.
Speaking after the sentence was handed down the shop owner said:
“I first received an alert from the camera at 1.30am when I was about to go to sleep. Someone had smashed the door so I went to the shop and checked there was nothing there. I thought they were coming back so I called the police who said if you see anything just call 999 and gave me a reference number. I stayed in my car there for two hours watching but then went back home and after another hour, at about 4.30am, I had another alarm on my mobile phone. I opened the CCTV feed on my phone and could see the guy trying to enter the shop so I closed the shutters.”
Crime Prevention Is Better Than Court Prosecution
In one previous break-in £400 had been stolen from the till, and after that the chip shop was broken into again, this time there was no significant amount of money left in the shop and all the robber got was coins, much of which ended up strewn about the floor. On that occasion it had been neighbours who had called the police after spotting the break in but they arrived too late to catch the burglar in the act.
While it’s fantastic that the shop owner was able to get recompense for the damage which was done to his shop, and the culprit is now working to improve our community without being paid for his efforts, it can’t be overlooked that security shutters are there to protect property, and not to catch people once they have already broken in to the building. Crime wasn’t prevented. There is a victim, and the court’s time and resources were taken up with trying the case.
We believe that crime prevention is better than a prosecution, even a successful one. Had the shutters been closed as soon as the shop was empty they would still have paid for themselves as they would have ensured that the shop hadn’t been damaged in the first place.
While they’re not on our standard range of home, retail and business security options Briant Communications would have no trouble sourcing remotely operated Smart Security shutters and screens to work alongside our CCTV security cameras, burglar alarms and motion sensors. However, were we to offer our clients any advice it would be to close the shutters at the end of the day and use the signage which comes with the security devices which inform any potential intruders that the building is covered by cameras and intruder alarms.