Bars and taverns have often been the target of criminals...




BDI News & Tips



Beware: Bar & Tavern Burglars Bolder Than Ever




Bars and taverns have often been the target of criminals. Usually, it's for cash that hasn't been dropped in a safe overnight. Sometimes it's the safe itself if it's on the smaller side and not bolted into the floor or wall. Anything loose and available is also targeted: booze and cigarettes for their fix, miscellaneous, but potentially valuable electronics like laptops, televisions and peripherals that can be resold. There's even the occasional string of metal thefts - AC units stripped down for their copper parts.


ATMs and the video gaming vaults are often tampered with, but are usually too well-secured to be big targets. They're almost always bolted into the structure and are reinforced well enough that cutting into or prying them open requires time a burglar usually doesn't have to spare, so they stick to lower-hanging fruit.


A recent burglary here in Madison County, however, may point to a change in that logic. Earlier this week one of our insureds was burglarized in a way that's a little more planned out and brazen than your usual 5-minute smash and dash burglary.


The perpetrators knew which door was on delay, so they went in there first, forcing entry and ripping the alarm off the wall before it could signal. They cut phone and internet lines. They tried killing the camera system and didn't quite succeed, but they did disable some of the cameras using a ladder they brought along and left behind.


With the luxury of a little time from an alarm that wasn't going to sound, they broke open the ATM that was bolted down. Perplexingly - and perhaps why this bar was targeted - the gaming vendor's vault for the video gaming terminals was not bolted down. So they tried hauling it off using a dolly they brought along. It proved too unwieldy, so they abandoned efforts to remove it and tried, unsuccessfully, to break it open as well.


Clearly, this bar had been selected and targeted carefully, presumably cased a time or two beforehand. Authorities suspect the burglar(s) probably spent about 20 minutes inside.


So what can you do to deter would-be-burglars?


Review your safety procedures.

Put yourself into the mind of a criminal and take a look at your establishment through their eyes. What's the easiest access point? Is anything that could be stored in a locked room or closet done so? Are your cash handling procedures as diligent as they could be? The prospect of breaking into your building, then breaking into an office, then breaking into a safe, drawer, or cabinet may be enough to deter thieves looking for an easy mark.


Reinforce your shut-down checklist with your staff.

After conducting your own review, have a staff meeting to emphasize certain points and make sure they share your concerns. Many bars, especially once the kitchen closes, have a skeleton crew by the end of operating hours. Are these employees, eager to wrap-up and get home, starting their end-of-shift procedures before all patrons are out of the building? If so, a back door that was checked prior to close could be surreptitiously unlocked or left ajar by a patron who plans on returning later. Leave an internal light or two on overnight, so passerby's may notice activity inside after hours.


Make sure your camera systems and security alarms are in working order.

If you have these systems in place for theft deterrence, make sure your alarm contract is paid up and the alarm is activated. Ditto for your camera system; do all your cameras work? Instead of just providing a closed-circuit tv system, do they record to a hard drive to be reviewed later? If possible, restrict access to central computer terminals and security systems even from employees. Periodically change access codes and passwords.


Ultimately, there's only so much you can do to protect yourself. But the old saying, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" seems applicable to this subject. It's easier to stop something from happening in the first place than cleaning up the damage after it's happened.


Even your insurance will cover the break-in and the stolen items and cash, it can take weeks or months for the claims process to run its course. Your profit margin is probably already thin enough; a disruption to your operations and cash flow from a theft or burglary could seriously cripple your business. Take a little time to make sure you're doing all you can within reason to not make yourself an opportunistic target.



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Bret Dixon Insurance | P.O. Box 205, Bethalto, IL 62010