by Stevan P. Layne, CPP, CIPM, CIPI
All individuals and institutions are experiencing significant impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic (and, most likely, the worst part isn’t over). If we continue to head in the same direction, with closed businesses, rising unemployment, and little or no income, people will inherently become increasingly desperate. Federal, state, and local governments are stepping in to assist where they can, but resources are limited on all fronts. Will assistance efforts put food on the table (and for how long)? It’s important to look at statistics, as well as human nature. When people become desperate, criminal activity increases. Even previously law-abiding citizens may resort to drastic measures to feed their families.
Where outright theft is concerned, over 90 percent of losses from cultural institutions involve someone connected to the institution. These losses, as far as we know, are not generated by desperate people. Internal theft is mostly committed out of greed or opportunity.
Remember, valuable collections are not the only assets that warrant strict protection. Theft can include cash, merchandise, computers, tablets, audio-visual equipment, electronics, supplies, and other expensive assets. Small objects are most easily removed without detection. Large objects are vulnerable as well, if someone has the time and opportunity to make proper arrangements.
What this means to management is that our protection efforts need to be absolute. Perimeters must be impenetrable, at every point. Intrusion and access control alarms must be tested regularly, and performing as intended. Every member of proprietary and/or contract security staff must be properly screened, hired, trained, and monitored. A responsible member of management that understands the entire security program must be designated to monitor all protection activity and security officer performance.
During current institutional closures, all persons (staff, volunteers, contractors), regardless of rank or position, should be thoroughly screened/identified upon entering or leaving facilities. Every parcel, bag, and container should be professionally searched upon entry and exit to mitigate internal theft.
Video surveillance is a valuable tool, if properly specified, selected, placed, installed, monitored, and tested. While video surveillance, and security and fire protection alarms perform a valuable function, technology alone cannot take the place of an alert, well-trained, and properly supervised patrol officer (in terms of reliability and effectiveness). With the current and significant decrease of regular staff working within our institutions, the importance of proper security inspections, patrols, and physical searches becomes even more critical.
We are all particularly vulnerable during closures, and disrupted operations. Please stay safe and diligently maintain recommended health practices.
Contact us if you have concerns about your unique facilities or assets. We can help directly, or refer you to someone who can.