“Beer is something people love to steal,” Lamar Richardson, location manager, Budweiser of Spartanburg, explained. “But it’s not so funny if you’re a beer distributor. It is not funny at all.”
Richardson’s point strikes home: theft from a beer distribution, or any type of facility distributing alcohol, is a target likely to appeal to more than just professional thieves. And no matter who is breaking in, the combination of trespassing, alcohol, and midnights are a bad mix.
So in 2007, no one on staff was laughing when Budweiser of Spartanburg was repeatedly broken into, the trucks vandalized, and their products stolen.
“We lock the trucks and we lock the bays, and so when somebody was breaking in, not only were they stealing beer but they were breaking the locks and the doors to get into where the beer was,” Richardson continued. “And sometimes, honestly, the repair of the vehicle was more expensive than the beer loss. We have a 20-acre facility. We had a chain link fence around it. But they were cutting holes in the fence, or coming over the fence; it got to the point where it became a little crime wave.”
A deputy repeatedly called to the scene finally made a suggestion, Richardson recalls. “After about the fourth time he came out, he said ‘You know, you might want to think about this company that puts up electric fences inside the chain link. Some of your neighbors have it and they’ve had great results.’ He gave me some details.”
Richardson, a 30-year veteran of the company, sat down to do his due diligence on his security options.
Cost was a major concern for Budweiser of Spartanburg, given the vast nature of the facility. What did they explore before reaching a decision?
Richardson acknowledged, “We have some cameras outside of our building, but putting cameras as far as this fence [the chain link] is just cost prohibitive. And then it is no good to you, because all you can do is look at what was happened after the fact.”
And guards? He is absolute.
“I am not going to pay somebody to sit here all night and watch some cameras. That’s just cost prohibitive. The electric fence was so much cheaper than any kind of guard that you would pay for, or surveillance system that someone would monitor.”
After rejecting the alternatives, Richardson called the electric fence company the deputy had referred him to: Electric Guard Dog, the first and leading supplier of electric security fencing for commercial businesses nationwide. The system involved:
- A free-standing, 10 ft electric security fence installed inside the facility’s chain link;
- Solid construction with a steel and fiberglass frame;
- Multilingual warning signs to alert would-be trespassers;
- Solar power via a solar panels attached to a battery;
- Pulsed electricity to ensure the shock is medically safe but nevertheless effective; and
- Alarms triggered by attempts to scale, cut, or spread the wires.
Budweiser of Spartanburg thought it sounded great. Richardson recalls four aspects he really liked: the value proposition, the design, the cost savings, and the business model.
The value proposition an electric fence offers is theft deterrence, instead of catching thieves and going to court. Customers that use electric fences often say the warning signs alone discourage many attempts.
“We really liked that it is it a deterrent with the 7,000 volts of electricity, which is a deterrent for most people,” Richardson concurred. “And as far as liability, they take care of that. The insurance company was happy about that.”
Richardson particularly liked the alarm system included in the design.
“Even if somebody manages to get through it before they can actually get away with anything, we are already alerted. It is tied into our alarm system and they call the police.”
Richardson also found the contractual service agreement appealing.
“One of the things that impressed us so much about them is the fact that they install the fence, and you lease it. It is still their fence, and because of that, the quality is so much better. They are installing something that they have to maintain, like their corner posts are a lot larger in diameter, a lot deeper in the ground, a lot more secure than a fence someone would actually sell you.”
Installation took place a few weeks later.
“Everything was flawless,” according to Richardson.
But, the question remained, would it work to stop Budweiser of Spartanburg’s crime wave?
Richardson is categorical.
“It stopped immediately, 100%. We have had no problems since 2007. We have had some attempts, but like I said, as soon as they touch the wire and they ground it out or whatever the alarm goes off, I am called, the police are called, and the alarms are going off. We don’t get to see very many of them because they are gone. They are not successful.”
So, who was trying to steal the beer back then?
Richardson is surprisingly blasé, considering his answer.
“Before we put the fence in? It was actually a car theft ring. And they were chopping the cars up not far from us and they were coming in here and stealing the beer. The sheriff deputies finally caught them but by then we had already put the electric fence up and that put a stop to it.”
And the maintenance?
“Their [Electric Guard Dog’s] service has been fantastic! I have to say it has been basically maintenance free except a few little odds and ends that would happen and I pick up the phone and call and they get a tech up here and he is usually here a couple of hours and he has found the problem and fixed it. But very little, because of the quality of the fence. This thing ain’t going nowhere.”
So, has anyone on staff ever accidentally touched the fence?
“My guy that opens up in the morning one time. Just absolutely slipped his mind. One day he comes in and turns off the regular alarm and forgot to turn off the electric fence, so for whatever reason, he went out there to undo the chain link fence and got zapped. He said rest assured that once you touch it, you never will again. But I don’t have to touch the stove to know it is hot.”
He doubles back.
“But it has 100% stopped theft. It actually gives us a lot of peace of mind, because when they were breaking in before, once they got on the property, they had all night. They could do whatever they wanted, so long as they stayed outside the building. And the amount of damage that somebody could cause, not just from a theft standpoint but from a vandalism one, or anything else, is pretty serious. It’s also possible someone could hurt themselves, and you know how that deal goes. Plus we have guys up here working at one or two in the morning loading trucks too. They don’t have to worry about somebody surprising them on the property any more. That’s a lot of peace of mind. ”
Inviting Richardson to impart some last thoughts, he directed them to other beer distributors.
“If you are not having a theft problem, it just hasn’t happened yet. And eventually it will happen. So you can either decide to do it, and prevent it from happening, or you can do it after it happens. It certainly would have been cheaper for us to have done it before.”