Rising Trends in Commercial Property Theft
- By Eric Lipson
- Dec 05, 2023
From bustling urban centers to quieter suburban districts, businesses of all sizes and industries find themselves entangled in a complex web of criminal activities that threaten their stability, profitability, and sense of security.
As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, criminals too have adapted, harnessing innovation to exploit vulnerabilities in new and unforeseen ways. Gone are the days when locks and security personnel alone sufficed to safeguard commercial properties. Law enforcement resources are strained by rising violent crimes, therefore unable to prioritize property crime.
The rise of commercial property theft isn’t merely a matter of statistics – it’s a growing issue threatening modern commerce. This article dives into the specific issues we see escalating soon:
1. Metal theft
Theft of metals, such as copper, aluminum, and bronze from commercial properties isn’t a new trend but is a dynamic one. Commercial metal theft targets a wide range of locations, including construction sites, power plants, telecommunication facilities, railroads, utility infrastructure (such as electrical substations), and manufacturing facilities. Thieves may target metal components such as wiring, pipes, air conditioning units, and other valuable fixtures, often causing damage to buildings and infrastructure in the process.
Metal theft is driven by the high market value of certain metals. For example, Rhodium and Palladium (precious metals found in catalytic converters) have seen skyrocketing prices over the past 4-5 years which has contributed to the catalytic converter theft epidemic. The stolen metals are typically sold to scrap yards or recycling centers, where they are melted down and resold as raw materials.
2. Vandalism, Arson, and Property Damage
The trends surrounding vandalism and property damage can be complex and multifaceted, making it challenging to pinpoint a single cause. It’s generally considered to be a combination of socioeconomic factors, social unrest, substance abuse, and more.
While there are several community, economic, and law enforcement efforts to deter and apprehend perpetrators, commercial properties remain at risk.
The damage to commercial properties, including graffiti, broken windows, litter, arson, etc. goes beyond the defacement. The visible signs of vandalism impact the sense of safety and security that individuals and businesses rely on.
3. Burglary and Break-ins
Traditional forms of property crime like burglaries and break-ins continue to be a challenge for commercial properties, especially those that house valuable goods or sensitive information. Certain types of businesses may be more vulnerable to burglary and break-ins due to factors such as location, type of merchandise, and security measures in place.
Some commercial burglaries are committed by repeat offenders who are familiar with the layout and security systems of specific businesses. Identifying and apprehending these individuals can be challenging but can lead to a reduction in burglary rates.
4. Employee Theft
Internal theft by employees or insiders is a persistent issue. Employees with access to merchandise, inventory, or financial information are tempted to engage in theft or fraudulent activities.
Employee theft has been a longstanding concern for businesses of all sizes and industries. It's often considered one of the most significant internal security threats that organizations face. Employee theft can be motivated by various factors, including financial stress, personal financial gain, dissatisfaction with compensation, opportunity, and sometimes a perceived lack of consequences.
5. Cargo Theft
The alarming rise in cargo theft represents a growing challenge for the logistics and transportation industry. Even more, the surge in criminal activity poses a significant threat to the global supply chain, as organized crime networks become increasingly sophisticated in their tactics.
The theft of cargo from trucks, warehouses, and distribution centers not only results in staggering financial losses for businesses but also disrupts the timely delivery of essential goods, impacting consumers and the economy. Criminals have primarily targeted shipments of valuable goods such as electronics, pharmaceuticals, and luxury items but really anything with value is at risk.
6. Construction Site Theft
Construction site theft has plagued several US cities with massive development projects underway. Thieves often target construction sites for their equipment, tools, and materials left unattended during off-hours for their high resale value.
This theft trend is not only having a significant financial impact on the industry but also disrupting project timelines, leading to delays and increasing costs for consumers. Moreover, the loss of expensive machinery and tools can hinder the productivity and safety of workers.
With most construction sites having little to no security due to their size, the industry will likely continue to be impacted by theft.
7. Equipment & Vehicle Theft
General equipment and vehicle theft trends reveal an evolving landscape of criminal activity that poses significant challenges for individuals and businesses alike. With advances in technology, thieves have adapted, becoming increasingly adept at bypassing traditional security measures.
While the construction industry as previously mentioned has been impacted, landscaping, agricultural, and trucking industries have also felt the pain. For businesses whose profitability is driven by productivity, this growing trend is proving to be detrimental to operations all over the country.
8. Retail Theft
Retail theft, also known as shoplifting, remains a pervasive issue that affects businesses of all sizes, from local stores to multinational retailers. This form of theft takes a toll on the bottom line of businesses, causing billions of dollars in losses annually. Retailers often face a delicate balancing act: striving to create an open and welcoming shopping environment for customers while implementing security measures to deter theft.
9. Organized Theft Rings
Organized theft rings represent a highly concerning facet of criminal activity, characterized by their strategic coordination and systemic approach to theft. These groups often target valuable assets such as high-end electronics, luxury goods, or even critical infrastructure components. They employed sophisticated techniques including surveillance, diversion tactics, and well-organized heists to carry out their other operations. Theft rings are often not limited by geographical boundaries and can operate across regions and even internationally making them particularly challenging for law enforcement agencies to track and apprehend.
In an age where businesses strive to thrive in an ever-competitive landscape, safeguarding their physical and digital assets has become a paramount concern. Local trends and crime patterns can vary widely, new trends are always emerging. To combat these trends,
1. Consult with law enforcement agencies, commercial property security experts, and relevant industry reports to continue to stay informed.
2. Develop a multi-layered security approach to protect your company’s assets and give you peace of mind.