This is the companion article on the topic of common sense security precautions for the business individual or person with significant assets. The first article, Security for Business Travelers Abroad, concentrated on procedures involving travel to international locations. This article shall deal with common sense security procedures for domestic living and working situations. The reader is invited to read the first article on this web site before reading this particular article for important background.
The same dual problems discussed at length in the first article apply to domestic concerns. Both domestic and international criminal elements are increasingly rife in the United States and cause the intelligent individual to factor that into planning appropriate living and business arrangements. While it may be extreme to predict that the nearly chaotic situation of constant kidnapping of South America and Russia or the epidemics of violent crime in most of Africa will impose itself upon the United States, and while our nation remains far safer than the majority of other nations, there can be little question that increasing concern is appropriate.
If you are wealthy, you are a target. If you are a celebrity, even on a local scale, you are a target. If you and engaged in business with people (whether you know it or not) who are of dubious integrity, either home or abroad, you are a target. And, perhaps most importantly, if others perceive you as a target, you are a target.
The thrust of this article is to discuss those common sense relatively inexpensive steps once can take to increase security on a day to day basis when there is no particular threat recognized. If a threat is recognized, it is time to seek professional and often governmental protection and to do so immediately. Assuming that one simply understands that increased security is needed, what steps make sense that can be used not just for a week or two but for long term or permanent increase in security of your family, your friends, and your business?
The Nature of the Threats
As in the article on travel security, the first step is to realistically and unemotionally consider the nature of the threats one faces. That entails understanding not only what persons constitute a problem but why.
As emphasized in the article on international security precautions, the most difficult task confronting the security professional is to convince the possible victim that a threat exists. And, again, while our movies and televisions portray scenes of almost constant crime and danger, the average American, whether in business or not, simply does not truly believe that such dangers are significant en ought to be confronted.
They are wrong. Some crime figures from the year 2000 are instructive: Nationwide, there were 5.6 homicides for each one hundred thousand people but the amount of violent crime was 23.1 people per thousand and males and females suffered that same rate. Property crime was 159 per one thousand households.
In California, there were 3,730 crimes for each one hundred thousand households and violent crime was at the level of 621 of each one hundred thousand households. Property crime was 3,118 per one hundred thousand households. For each one hundred thousand households there were 6.1 murders, 29 Rapes, 178 robberies, 408 assaults and 656 burglaries.
It is vital to recall that the above figures are annually computed, thus if you extrapolate those figures into a ten year period, the odds over that period of you becoming a victim are better appreciated. If you have not been burglarized in the last ten years…you will soon face that trauma. Simple as that.
Do you wear seat belts? If you are smart you do. Yet the odds of a fatal accident are less than the odds of an assault against you. Yet, most people do not take significant precautions to protect themselves against assault.
People with wealth are more exposed. The reason is simply that they have more to steal and are perceived, rightly or wrongly, as being more appropriate and profitable victims. As a client once remarked, each status symbol he or his wife purchased was an advertisement and statement of his wealth and that message was not only received by his colleagues but by predators.
The wealthy are exposed but a celebrity is inherently in even greater danger. The number of people seeking to impose themselves upon the privacy and safety of a celebrity includes the entire reading or entertained public while a wealthy person, if diligent, can limit the number of people even knowing of wealth. One wealthy client of ours, when confronted with the panoply of steps he would be required to take to protect his young son from potential kidnappers, decided instead to adopt a living arrangement and lifestyle by which no one would suspect he was other than a small business man living with his infant son. That method worked well and he later commented had the added advantage of bringing his son and he closer together.
However, by definition a celebrity or someone forced to be in the public eye, such as a politician, simply cannot opt for that solution. The usual solution they adopt is a panoply of body guards and home security discussed later in this article. The problem inherent in that solution is the inevitable isolation that such protection imposes upon the celebrity. A famous performer known to this writer commented sadly that he could never visit any location without causing a stir and losing his ability to really see it since he arrived surrounded by half a dozen people. (I pointed out to him that he really only needed one or two but he ignored that. I personally thought he enjoyed the stir he caused.)
What is often overlooked by the wealthy is that they can, by their very wealth, become celebrities and subject to the more extreme problems facing the celebrities.
Criminals do read the social pages of the local newspapers and the internet has allowed criminals to easily obtain background information on business and political leaders that, before, would have remained relatively anonymous. We are a nation that values success in business and science and any even moderately successful person in that field will become well known, at least locally. Well known means well known to the very predators who seek access to one’s wealth either by robbery, burglary, fraud or kidnapping.
A defendant in a case once commented to this author that he could give me the income and likely net worth of any individual in San Francisco if given a minute to examine their automobile and their shoes…and in ten seconds if he can see how the wife dressed for dinner. (He had obtained a job at a valet in an expensive restaurant for a year to build up his inventory of information. The car registration was his hit list.)
This does not mean one should wallow in paranoia. It does mean that domestic crime is a real issue in your life if you are wealthy or even mildly famous and if you do not confront that fact and take reasonable precautions, you are delusional and will eventually probably pay a high price.
What steps make sense for day to day security precautions?
The threats you face are both personal and property but, luckily, the protections available usually protect both.
USING COMMON SENSE INSTEAD OF JUST MONEY
1. LOCKS AND ALARMS: LIGHTS AND PRACTICALITIES
Sound obvious? It is not.
The overwhelming majority of home, business and related security locks are incapable of stopping a professional thief for more than a minute. Most doors can be kicked in with a blow or two. Any window without bars takes ten seconds to smash. Indeed, garage door openers and the like which operate on radio signals are easily duplicated and avoid the entire danger of having to make a commotion in breaking in.
If locks are usually poorly constructed, do alarms work? Some times.
Car alarms are utterly useless since few people react when they go off and studies show that they have made no reduction in the number of auto thefts. Home alarms in most urban areas are simply ignored by the police due to the high number of false alarms. Private alarm companies will, for additional cost, provide “rapid response” but the chances of these underpaid and little trained personnel arriving in time to achieve relief is small. As a criminal told this author, “Alarms scare the kids and amateurs, not the professionals. If the neighbors don’t start calling the police, nothing much is going to happen. I don’t worry about alarms. I worry about neighbors.”
And herein lies the key, of course. Both the locks and the alarms can delay and perhaps make a local amount of noise. They will not stop the culprits or bring the police. PEOPLE CALLING THE POLICE BRING THE POLICE. EITHER YOU INSIDE THE HOUSE WAKENED BY THE ALARM OR YOUR NEIGHBORS CALLING THE POLICE.
Your best alarm is your neighbor on the telephone ranting at the police. The task of your alarm and your security locks is to waken you or your neighbors to the need to seek police help. Alone, they are unlikely to accomplish anything.
So, step number one is to buy the best locks and alarms on the market, put bars on easily accessible windows and doors…and then take the most important step of all: get to know your neighbors, meet with them and agree on the need to call the police if the alarm goes off and pledge to do likewise.
When away from home you should tell your neighbors, arrange schedules, and give them numbers to contact you.
One inventive client we worked with who was wealthy and well known made a special “escape route” to the neighbors yard available for his wife and children when he traveled (three lose boards were made in the back yard) and arranged with the neighbor to leave a way into the neighbor’s house during such times so that the wife and kids could run, taking a cell phone to call the police with them.
Such ideas are easily developed and implemented and have an added benefit of creating a community feeling with your neighbors for you will find that they will have much the same concerns as you do.
Light have been found to stop more crime than locks. Why?
Criminals do not want to be recognized and that is a factor but the greater factor is that people can see the wrongful acts occurring…and, yes, call the police. Darkness gives the criminal time and access to your locks or windows. Light makes such efforts dangerous.
Light all dark areas around your house and have movement infra red switches that can be overridden by manual switches inside the house. Replace the bulbs regularly. Have a backup battery system for the lights in case of power failure (or cut lines by burglars) and make sure you check the backup battery regularly, at least once a quarter.
Test the system. Each month every month.
And if you hear your neighbor’s alarm go off, make that call.
Business security is too often confused with protection of confidential information and trade secrets, topics discussed in other articles on this web site. This article, instead, deals with the more nuts and bolts issue of keeping yourself and your employees physically safe.
How does the above method of locks and lights work with businesses in which neighbors are seldom available at night? Clearly lights, barred windows and locks are important but, again, they simply act as “early warning” signs. What does one do if one’s business has no twenty four hour a day neighbors?
That is the one area that security guards make sense. In most urban areas complexes and any sizable building will have security guards on patrol each night with alarms linked into police and, with businesses, police often do respond. While the danger of low paid and untrained security professionals still apply, and while most such guards will do no more than call the police if confronted, it is better than nothing and, of course, the real purpose of such guards is deterrence and to act as “neighbors” in calling the police.
BUSINESS POLICY ISSUES
Most businesses recognize that security guards and not enough and take additional steps to provide security. Aside from lighting the parking lots and arranging good locks, businesses should create and implement in house office policy to minimize the risk.
Remember the employer is liable for providing safe working abodes for the employees and a proper policy as to after hours work is vital. Most intelligent businesses will pay for taxis and other means of private transportation for women who work after hours and make that policy known. Any good employment attorney will advise on a plethora of such policies that can be implemented to safeguard employees but, as stated previously, a key aspect is training and education of the employees to ensure that they take this seriously. Businesses often have an aura of safety and routine so that normally sensible people simply ignore risks. A secretary who would not walk down a dark street alone at night cheerfully walks through a parking lot a quarter of a mile at eleven PM in an area of the city deserted after eight. Purses are left scattered around offices when people would not leave a wallet or purse on their table during a dinner.
The way around all this is education of employees combined with the following procedures provided by the employer.
1. Employees should know that security is a primary concern of the company at all times. They should be encouraged to report to a named person any suspicious people or activities that they see.
2. There should be a person placed in charge of security issues and that person’s name should be made known to all employees.
3. Certain rules should be strictly enforced such as locked doors after six o’clock; access to keys to both the building and the women’s room; lights in the parking lot and access to private/public transportation after certain hours at night and on weekends; and an emergency 24 hour a day number for employees who are in danger and need to reach someone. CPR and First Aid Courses are inexpensive, can be arranged at your premises and take about half a day each.
4. Fired employees returning to the work place (“going postal”) require careful preplanned prevention. Security professionals should be consulted, locks changed, and management made aware of the change in status and the relevant procedures to take should the employee return.
5. There should be no weapons in the office. Ever. This must be an iron clad rule strictly enforced. If self defense is an issue, the use of trained professionals as described below is essential.
6. Emergency numbers should either be preprogrammed in the phone system or placed next to each and every telephone, including the building security guard, if any.
And remember in this day of “home offices” that an employee working out of your home is entitled to the same degree of security protection as in any other office. (And, conversely, be sure that any employee you do invite into your home is screened to be a good security risk.)
2. ACCESS TO SECURITY PROFESSIONALS
Your attorney or accountant will probably have a list of professional security companies that provide a whole range of support services ranging from bodyguards to training. Typical services provided are:
1. Setting up a secure environment in terms of inspecting the premises and recommending improvements.
2. Scanning your environment to determine if you are already the victim of “bugs.”
3. Providing body guards or security guards. (Body guards are assigned to protect a particular person or persons.)
4. Determining background of potential business or personal people in your life (“screening.”)
5. Investigating backgrounds of companies or entities that wish to involve themselves in your life.
6. Setting up computer security systems.
7. Advising on personal safety precautions a person should take when engaging in particular activities.
8. Locating missing people.
9. Advising on appropriate equipment for security, from vehicles to body armor.
10. Providing surveillance of people or places of interest to you.
Security professionals are licensed by the State, usually derive from a police background, can be expensive and have a tendency to exaggerate both threats and their ability to provide safety and information. However, they are also usually dedicated to their profession and if used correctly can be an invaluable tool for both the business and individual requiring expertise in creating a security plan or requiring particular protection during various times.
Long term body guards are another matter and are obtained via agencies that specialize in that profession. Before any decision is made to utilize that method of protection, each other method should be carefully examined since the distortion to one’s life by having full time protection is remarkable and the cost of loss of privacy is even greater than the cost of providing such protection.
Short term “event” bodyguards are usually available from most investigative companies and your attorney will have names to recommend. It can be expensive: twenty four hour a day security normally requires three individuals, some paid overtime, and when weekends or travel are added, the cost is significant. At the same time, a licensed body guard, armed and trained, can be the highest form of security and our clients have utilized them with success for certain meetings or situations in which they felt they were exposed to serious threat for limited periods of time. A good rule is to assume that providing twenty four hour a day security from a reputable company will cost in excess of a thousand dollars a day.
But if your life is in danger it is worth it.
A good test is to run the perceived danger by someone without an economic interest in the matter before retaining body guards, such as your accountant or attorney. Their unbiased and calm advice may alter your opinion as to the threat-or confirm it.
TIMING AND SECURITY
A now retired security expert once told the author that the best way to achieve maximum security is to alter one’s predictability. “Criminals rely on patterns. What you do; when you are in the house, when you are out, what you wear, what you drive, when you go to work, etc. If you change your patterns even by a little: change when you go to work or your route to work, etc…you disrupt their plans and do more to aid security than all the gizmos and body guards can provide.”
He must have been right. In forty years of providing protection, he never lost a client.
Humans are creatures of habit and all of us get into patterns that are difficult to change. Consider: do you get up and do the same things in the same order each morning? Do you drive home the same route each day? Almost all of us do.
That expert used to give his clients a chart with boxes to be filled in by his clients in which the client would alter by at least ten minutes a list of standard actions during the day…such as getting up ten minutes earlier and driving to work by a longer route, etc. The expert would then use a computer to mix up the changes and provide a schedule for his client each week by which, at random, the client would alter activities to conform to the schedule. Additionally, the expert would often call the client in mid day and alter the program a little more.
“Works better than a body guard and is much cheaper,” he laughed.
But he also provided body guards.
DAY TO DAY LIFE AND PARANOIA
As discussed in our article on Security for Business Travelers Abroad, the need for security is a fact of life for much of the world and has been fully integrated into the lives of even moderately wealthy individuals in many of the nations. The challenge is to calmly consider the real dangers, to utilize technology to minimize the danger, and to be realistic but thorough in implementing adequate protection both at business and at home.
Will you be the victim of a crime in the next sixty months? Almost certainly. Does that mean you must live in fear? Certainly not. Most crime is burglary or theft and, while annoying, is not life threatening.
But if you are wealthy or a celebrity, you owe it to yourself and the ones you love to understand that your increased exposure requires increased precaution and to fail to take those precautions is not a sign of bravery but of refusal to face simple facts.
Or, as the saying goes, “Even paranoids have enemies.”