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  • February 18, 2016 2:23 PM | Rob Layne (Administrator)

    By Peggy Schaller


    The number one priority for any institution is life safety. Museums are no exception and, as public institutions, must make sure we provide a safe place for our staff and volunteers to work and for our visitors to enjoy themselves.

    The staff interacts with the visitors and patrons on a daily basis. They also are charged with maintaining the building, making sure it is clean and presentable each day for those who come to visit the museum, and with making sure the building and grounds are safe. Staff members are also responsible for the Museum's collections--they document each artifact; prepare and maintain a safe place with proper storage materials for those items in storage; create safe and secure exhibit environments for those items being displayed in the Museum's galleries and public spaces; and maintain a current and accurate inventory of where each item in the collection is located.

    Volunteers generally work directly with visitors and patrons alongside the paid staff. They may be charged with similar duties or may be assigned to man/woman the galleries and answer questions about the Museum and the exhibition(s). Volunteers may also be enlisted to assist staff with collections care and documentation.

    As public institutions, Museums are charged with maintaining a safe environment for those who visit or use the resources provided by them. Therefore, the safety of our visitors and patrons is an important part of our jobs as museum staff or volunteers. A large percentage of museum visitors are the most vulnerable sector of our society--our children and our elders. Museums must be safe places for children to learn and have fun; and they must be safe places for elders to enjoy and move through without worries or hazards.

    Finally, museums, like other businesses, must sometimes rely on outside contractors or workmen to perform maintenance or other tasks within the museum. The safety of these individuals must also be a concern for museum staff.

    Museum Building

    The Museum's building is the core of the institution--without it there would be no institution. The building must be protected from fire, vandalism, weather, water, and natural disasters. Routine maintenance is a must and repairs must be made timely to prevent leaks in roofs or skylights; rodent and insect pest problems; and/or unauthorized entry. Regular checks need to be made to the fire detection and suppression systems to ensure they are in working order; if alarms are used, these, too, need to be checked for any problems. Lighting needs to be checked and night security lights must be in working order.

    The Museum grounds are the first line of defense for the institution. Be sure that they are well lit and that all exterior lighting is working. Keep plantings away from the building's walls--not only are these plants a great place to hide, they encourage small animals to make themselves at home in and around the building's foundation. If you have external exhibits or historic buildings, make sure these are secured against damage or theft both day and night. During open hours one of the best ways to insure the security of historic outbuildings is to utilize volunteer docents to give tours, talks and/or answer visitor's questions about each structure.

    The Museum's collections--without collections most museums would cease to exist. There are, of course, non-collecting museums, but most small museums have very large collections.   Industry analysts state that in most museums 80% of their collections are in storage at any one time and only 20% are out on display. Therefore, the museum needs to have strategies to protect the collections in storage and the ones on display. There are some small museums that have everything on display, and this makes for a very crowded facility that may be difficult to adequately protect--small items could disappear without anyone even noticing, particularly if much of the display is open and not inside secured cases.

    Storage facilities need to be secured and have access restricted to only those who are charged with the care of the collection--not everyone needs keys to the store. Displays need to be monitored periodically during the day and checked at closing and again during the opening of the museum.

    Property of others including items on loan from other institutions for display; items on loan from individuals for display, evaluation or potential donation; and employee and visitor property need to also be protected.


    Policies and Procedures

    Policies and Procedures MUST be written down and given to every staff member--paid or volunteer--and the Museum administration must not only read, understand and follow the policies themselves, they must make sure all the staff understand and follow them.

    What policies and procedures?

    • Collections Management Policies and Procedures
    • Hiring Procedures that include background checks for everyone
    • Access Procedures for non-public areas of the museum

    Excerpt from Security for the Small Museum Workshop available through Collections Research for Museums and presented by Peggy Schaller regionally to small (tiny) museums wanting to learn low and no cost security options. For more information on this workshop visit the  Collections Research for Museums website.


  • February 18, 2016 2:22 PM | Rob Layne (Administrator)

    By Fiona Graham, Conservator, Canadian Museum of Nature; Sarah Spafford-Ricci, Royal Saskatchewan Museum and Lisa Kronthal, National Sciences Foundation

    Lesson No. 1

    • It helps when the firefighters know and love your museum
    • Invite firefighters to tour your museum
    • Host a party for families of firefighters and police officers

    Lesson No.2

    • Construction brings extra hazards
    • Watch what your contractors are doing
    • Develop guidelines for contractors working in museums
    • Know what equipment and materials they will be using

    Lesson No. 3

    • Construction increases the fire risk
    • Insist on a fire watch
    • Make sure your fire detection and suppression systems are not compromised

    Lesson No. 4

    • Fire is bad - sprinklers are good
    • OR
    • A little water is better than too much or none at all

    Lesson No. 5

    • Consider the fire risk when designing exhibitions and storage layouts
    • Don't block sprinklers
    • Don't overheat fluid-preserved specimens
    • Think twice before designing a labyrinth

    Lesson No. 6

    • Leaky cases mean dirty specimens
    • If an air-tight case is not a good idea, include filtered holes or use positive pressure from a clean air source

    Lesson No. 7

    • Always clean with dry methods before using wet methods

    Lesson No. 8

    • Soot is insoluble
    • Don't try to "solubilize" soot
    • Try to lift it instead
    • Oily components will come with the carbon particles

    Executive Summary: Planning can make a big difference

  • January 06, 2016 7:04 AM | Rob Layne (Administrator)

    by Stevan P. Layne, CPP, CIPM, CIPI, IFCPP Founding Director

    As much as we’d like to ignore the problem, attacks on public places/events are in the news.  They are not going away, and in fact, are predicted to increase.   An interesting fact, from reviewing reports of active shooter events, special event intrusions, and “gate crasher” incidents…is that none of the successful intrusions took place where an objective entry screen was performed.  Entry screens run the gamut from casual observation by a properly trained staff member, to full bag check/metal detection and personal electronic screening.

    The decision to perform entry screening will probably be based on your budgetary capabilities, the size of your staff, and your ability to conduct this procedure with little or no loss of visitor services.    Whichever method you choose, it must be done professionally and consistently, by trained professionals.  Your public and staff entries (all of them) should be properly configured to allow for reasonable inspection of people and containers, and, for the smooth flow of people through the inspection point.  Each location should be staffed by one full time person, with either a second person on hand or in close proximity.   Another consideration is how to handle restricted articles when they are found.  This should be considered as a significant policy, reviewed by legal counsel, and verified in writing from the highest authority in your institution.   

    Some states/municipalities are now dealing with “open carry” laws, in addition to conceal/carry permits, which should also be addressed as a part of the inspection process. We can’t interpret the law in your jurisdiction.  That’s always going to be up to your administration, following the advice of your legal counsel.    IFCPP’s position will remain in opposition of allowing any weapons to be brought onto the property, except by authorized law enforcement officers within their own jurisdiction.

    IFCPP will be adding a session on package inspection to all of its certification programs in 2016.   In addition, any organization wishing to offer a session on package inspection – including methods and performance – may schedule an onsite, two hour training program at any location.  The session includes each aspect of preparing for and conducting reasonable inspections.   Contact for additional information or scheduling. 

  • December 22, 2015 4:43 PM | Rob Layne (Administrator)

    As we have been advising for some time, entry screening at all public (and staff) entries is a viable prevention tool in deterring armed intrusion.  Recent terror-related events, in a variety of environments, have initiated placement of metal detection procedures in such iconic locations as Disney Parks, Sea World, and Universal Studios.   Some of our larger institutions have also introduced metal detection at their public entries.  Ball parks and stadiums ramped up their screening some time ago.  The screening process is labor intensive, and not inexpensive.  Enhancing life safety is a necessary expense.  Many businesses and public institutions have given casual attention to entry screening, by simply observing entry points.  It’s not enough.  

    Some organizations cannot afford expensive equipment for scanning people and containers.   Those with limited budgets and/or limited staff should not ignore the need to screen every person, and every container entering your institution.  We recognize the fact that in some locations the process is nearly impossible, especially those with an open perimeter, “open campus” environment.   Wherever possible, where entry points may be controlled, screening should be initiated.

    Any level of package screening/personal screening needs to be introduced in a professional, “visitor friendly” manner.   No one likes being subjected to scrutiny by a stranger, or a person of authority.  There is no reason why screening cannot be conducted while maintaining a high level of customer service.  It’s all in the attitude, and how the search is conducted.  Screening personnel do not necessarily need to be security officers.  There must be more than one person assigned to each screening point, or at least have the close proximity of a supervisor to respond.   The entire screening process needs to be formally documented, published, and distributed to assigned personnel.   Hands-on training, covering every step of the process, must be conducted so that every person assigned is prepared to handle a variety of scenarios which may occur during entry screening.

    Do not forget the affect your screening process may have on persons entering the property.  The public needs to be informed of what is required of them, treated with respect and courtesy, and kept moving forward at a reasonable pace.   IFCPP will offer a complete training package in the process of introducing and conducting proper entry screening.  The next time you enter a location utilizing entry screening, take the time to observe how others do it, and the effectiveness of the process.

  • December 16, 2015 1:20 PM | Rob Layne (Administrator)

    By Robert Carotenuto, CPP, PCI, PSP and the ASIS International Cultural Properties Council

    Short Term (Right Now!)

    • Remember your organization's mission and ensure that you continue to follow it.
    • Raise awareness by communicating with your staff.
    • Learn and understand your staff's concerns.
    • Discuss with local law enforcement potential threats to your institution.
    • Let staff know how they can help, e.g. "If you see something, say something".
    • Know what your neighbors are doing. Sharing ideas and information helps build a resilient community.


    Site Survey and Risk Assessment (Annual review at minimum)

    • Look at your institution with a fresh pair of eyes to uncover potential vulnerabilities.
    • Review your policies and procedures.
    • Review all the resources at your disposal, both internal and external.
    • Learn and understand ongoing concerns of your staff.
    • Discuss with local law enforcement potential threats to your institution.
    • Review your institution's daily operating procedures to understand how any changes in security procedures might adversely impact them.

    Plan and Implement Solutions

    • Develop a plan of action based upon your site survey and risk assessment.
    • Physical site hardening takes time, planning, and money, all of which might not be possible, nor a cost-effective means of addressing your institution's risks.
    • Do ensure that what physical security measures you have are working and in good condition-locks, doors, gates, bollards, access control, fencing, CCTV.

    Communicate your plan

    • Internal: emails, staff newsletter, staff meetings, training manuals and training sessions.
    • External: let local law enforcement know your concerns and see how they might be able to assist you with an increased presence at your facility.
    • Make sure all your internal and external contact information is correct and up to date.

    Implement a heightened alert plan when threat levels increase.

    • A pre-determined plan with action items that can quickly be implemented in order to raise organization wide security awareness and response to counter and reduce the threat.
    • Move security posts to forward positions and provide security officers with specific post orders designed to counter/reduce the threat.

    Perform staff training

    • Review policies and procedures with your staff on what to do in various emergency scenarios-make it real for them!
    • Tabletop exercises and drills will help reinforce training.
    • Let all staff know that they can help through their own observations.
    • If you see something, say something.
    • Trust your instincts and report any suspicious persons, suspicious behavior, and suspicious packages.

    Consider a behavioral approach to target hardening

    • The Mall of America uses trained plain clothes security professionals to engage visitors whose activities are out of the norm.
    • All potential wrongdoers fear detection and so will display certain typical stress characteristics.
    • Create a baseline of what is considered "normal" behavior at your facility. Activity out of the norm might be a single male in his 30s spending time in an area where the average visitor is between 5-10 years of age accompanied by one or two parents. This approach allowed one of our security officers to identify a vagrant who was eventually removed from our grounds.
    • Define what suspicious behavior is specific to your organization and train all staff (security and non-security staff) on how to report or respond when suspicious behavior is observed. What is suspicious in one organization may be normal behavior in others. For example taking photographs and video at a museum is normal guest behavior but it is not normal for photographs or video be taken of security equipment, posts, employee areas, etc.
    • Engage every visitor to your institution with a simple greeting. The retail industry has deployed this security tactic effectively for years and studies have shown that such an approach does reduce criminal activity.
    • If you have the resources, consider having some of your security officers work in plain clothes in order to help detect any possible perpetrators, such as pickpockets during times of high visitation.


    • All deliveries to your facility.
    • If you have the resources, consider screening all visitor vehicles and bags.
    • Consider a package or bag policy that will not allow visitors to enter your facility with any package or bag beyond a certain size. Best of all possible worlds is a no bag policy, but this might not be practical for the visitors to your institution based upon your culture and risk profile.

    Employee Travel

    • Review the US Department of State website for updated travel warnings and alerts.
    • Staff traveling on company business should provide detailed itineraries so their locations can be pin-pointed if and when something happens.  Whenever a terrorist event occurs somewhere in the world, one of the first questions your organization should ask is:  "Do we have any staff traveling there?"
    • Those who work for a company that travels abroad you can sign up for the OSAC report, and receive it daily, which is always informative for specific countries or this sort of alert. 
    • Advise your staff that they should register with the local US consulate abroad, if there is one, and you should have a planned exit strategy, such as first flight out of a war zone to first safe destination.

    Key Points for Security Personnel

    • Be visible.
    • Be vigilant.
    • Be proactive.
    • Engage all visitors and staff.
    • If you see something, say something.

    Robert Carotenuto, CPP, PCI, PSP is Associate Vice President for Security at The New York Botanical Garden in the heart of the Bronx. His more than twenty years of security experience in cultural property protection include sixteen years at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the Metropolitan Museum, he served as the Associate Security Manager for Physical Security and the Command Center, focusing on fire and electronic security systems, emergency management, and business continuity. Robert is currently the Vice Chair of the ASIS International Cultural Properties Council, past Chair and current Vice Chair of the American Alliance for Museums Security Committee, a member of the ASIS International Academic and Training Council, and an Adjunct Lecturer in the Department of Security, Fire, and Emergency Management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He holds Master of Science degrees in Computer Information Systems and Protection Management from Baruch College and John Jay College respectively.

  • December 16, 2015 1:18 PM | Rob Layne (Administrator)

    By Steve Layne and Peggy Schaller

    Reprinted from August 2014 Collections Caretaker

    With all the conflicts in the Middle East and around the world; the threat of domestic and international terrorism; and increasing domestic violence, it is critical that we all be aware of our surroundings. As unpleasant as these issues are to contemplate everyone involved in the protection of public institutions and their collections needs to be alert for suspicious persons and activities, including some who may be in our workforce.  Remind others to "See Something, Say Something!"  This means if you see ANY thing out of order or hear anything which touches on subversive activity, write it down and report it, now!  This applies in your workplace and any public space including schools, public transportation, and airports. The more people who are aware of their surroundings, the more chance we have of preventing a violent incident.

    Think about a security awareness briefing for all staff, volunteers, and even regular contractors for your institution.  Make sure that everyone has the tools to be aware and react proactively to any suspicious activity. It's never too early (hopefully not too late) to begin development of a disaster preparedness element in your emergency operations plan. Be prepared and don't let a simple incident turn into a disaster.

  • December 16, 2015 1:17 PM | Rob Layne (Administrator)

    By Steve Layne

    Reprinted from February 2015 Collections Caretaker

    If you pay any attention to the news, you can't help but notice there's a lot of turmoil, around the world, and within this country.   The word has gone out, to those who for one reason or another feel alienated or suppressed by westerners, Americans in particular.  The message they are receiving is to individually or in groups, wreak havoc wherever the opportunity presents itself.  That includes armed assault, kidnapping, murder, explosive devices, fires, destruction of property, and more.   Museums, historic houses, and especially national iconic sites...are "soft (vulnerable) targets."

    It is foolhardy to think that these elements cannot or will not strike in your neighborhood.  Regardless of the size, scope, or nature of your institution, the possibility of a threat becoming reality exists.  And once it begins, it's way too late to think about how to respond.   Sound prevention measures are available.  Solid defenses are affordable.  It starts with staff-wide awareness and an efficient reporting system.  Absolute control of your building's perimeter is a must.   Package inspection, frowned upon by many institutions, is a viable prevention tool, but infrequently initiated.  The Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the nation's largest, inspects every parcel and container coming into the institution, daily, and everything going out....efficiently, and with strong attention to visitor relations.   The excuse "we can't afford it," or "we don't have adequate staff" is just that, an excuse.   We're going to have tragic events in this country.  Do what you can, now, to avoid being a victim.  You need to have a plan.   For direct information about preventing measures, contact the International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection (IFCPP), the Department of Homeland Security, The FBI, or your local law enforcement agency.

    Stevan P. Layne is the principal consultant and chief executive of Layne Consultants International, a leading provider of cultural property protection advice. Steve is a former police chief, public safety director and museum security director. He is the author of The Cultural Property Protection Manual, and the Business Survival Guide. Steve regularly presents to professional associations and has consulted with more than 400 museums and other institutions. Steve is the founding director of the International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection and responsible for the professional training and certification of more than 1,000 museum professionals. For more information visit his web site Layne Consultants International.

  • December 16, 2015 1:15 PM | Rob Layne (Administrator)

    By Helen Alten

    Reprinted from February 2015 Collections Caretaker

    The Impact of Disasters on People

    Events of all sizes create a notable disruption in people's lives because these events cause significant change. The trauma of a disaster results in cognitive, behavioral, emotional, physical, and spiritual responses in those affected by it, including the recovery workers.

    The emotional and physical response of each person depends on many factors. These include the intensity of the disaster; the time between the event and recovery; the emotional and physical strength of the individual; the depth of feelings and level of panic felt by the individual; and prior experience with a similar event.

    Emotional symptoms that might occur include irritability, anger, denial, fear, sadness, depression, grief, mood swings, isolation and withdrawal, feeling helpless and overwhelmed, and self-blame and/or blaming others. Physical symptoms can include loss of appetite, insomnia, fatigue or hyperactivity, concentration and memory problems, or increased use of alcohol or drugs. No one should be blamed for their reactions. All of these are coping mechanisms in a difficult time. It is important that we understand that all of this is normal, needs to be accepted, and needs to be treated before it makes the disaster much worse than it already is.

    Psychological First Aid

    Psychological First Aid is part of the recovery process as much as physical stabilization of your artifacts. It involves providing contact, engagement, safety and comfort for each individual. A therapist identifies the needs and concerns of each person and provides them with practical assistance and information on coping methods, social supports and collaborative services that can provide more help. Remember, after the first few hours, the members of a recovery team are also psychologically affected by the disaster.

    A therapist's first contact with those affected by a disaster should address needs of individuals, families and communities. The goal is to reduce the initial distress caused by traumatic events. Then the therapist works to foster short and long-term adaptive functioning in each person, according to the culture and the ages of the affected individuals.

    When making contact with survivors of a disaster it is important to be gentle, compassionate, and respectful of individual feelings. The therapist's contact should be suggestive, not conclusive, informal and unobtrusive. It takes time for survivors to feel safe and trusting. Patience is important to reduce fear and apprehension. Answer pressing questions, concerns and needs, and support their individual coping efforts.

    The impact of trauma can reduce the ability to concentrate, disrupt attention, and impair cognitive skills. Think about when someone near to you died. Did you have trouble remembering where you put the car keys? Were you wandering around, forgetting important things, feeling like a zombie? Trauma can lead to regression and poor coping mechanisms that result in anger. It is important to create and sustain better feelings around these individuals by stressing safety and staying calm. Create an atmosphere that promotes connections with others and self-sufficiency, empowerment and hope. 

    First Responders are not immune

    First responders are not immune to psychological reactions to disaster situations. First responders include emergency management personnel, healthcare workers, psychologists and social workers, contractors, museum/library conservators and staff and volunteers. Some of the factors causing stress in first responders are long hours, not knowing the duration of the deployment, unfamiliar context, new challenges, time pressures, multiple or conflicting priorities, previous traumatic experiences, and fear of death, injury and/or illness.

    Mitigation Strategies

    Mitigation strategies include briefing personnel before the response operation begins. Make everyone aware of the expected emotional responses in victims and responders. Emphasize teamwork and sharing both the workload and the emotional load. Assign partners to help each other and be sure to rotate personnel to minimize fatigue. Take breaks away from the incident area and emphasize the need for good nutrition, frequent water breaks, and rest. Talk about the experience and phase-out workers by gradually assigning them to easier recovery activities. If possible, include daily debriefing. Add a therapist to the recovery team to help people continue to cope effectively.

    Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an intense physical and emotional response to thoughts and reminders about the traumatic event. If you see symptoms within yourself or one of your colleagues, reach out for assistance. Do not suffer in silence. Disasters and other traumatic events affect everyone. Be a survivor and not a victim.

    Helen Alten founded Northern States Conservation Center 18 years ago and museumclasses.org10 years ago. She is an objects conservator with a desire to bring about change through museums, improving our communities and the patrimony we leave to our off-spring.   

  • December 16, 2015 1:12 PM | Rob Layne (Administrator)

    By Karl Hoerig

    Museum store security starts with museum security. When thinking about security, you must consider all of the threats your facility, collections, and shop might face.That includes the obvious threat of loss or damage due to the acts of criminally-inclined people. It also includes threats like the threat of loss to fire, or damage that can be caused by water--either by way of natural floods or by the unwanted introduction of water from broken pipes or failed fire-sprinkler heads.  Your store inventory and cash is far less sensitive than your museum collections, so the protection you have for your facility (you do have it, right?) should be more than adequate to protect your shop.

    Hopefully your facility has adequate and appropriate monitoring and alarm systems for fire, water, and intrusion. At the very least, your museum should have a central alarm system that is monitored all the time. This system should include smoke and/or heat detectors in every room; water sensors anywhere you might have water coming into your facility (e.g. basements); a flow sensor attached to your fire sprinkler system if you have one; and perimeter and interior motion detectors to sense unauthorized after-hours access.

    Unless you have your own 24-hour security team, you should contract with an alarm monitoring company that will alert your local fire and police departments and call you if an alarm is tripped.

    If your museum store is located inside your museum facility, it should be included in the net of protection provided by this system. If your shop is not inside your main facility, try at a minimum to maintain a monitored intrusion and fire alarm system for your shop. You should be able to add it to your main facility's monitoring contract.

    Security during business hours is a bit more of a worry. Unlike your collections storage areas or the locked cases in your exhibit galleries, you want people -- as many people as possible -- to come into your museum store and to touch your merchandise.

    Your first consideration should always be for the personal safety of your staff. They are not paid enough, nor are they trained to serve as a private police force. Everyone on your staff should understand that they are not expected to place themselves in danger to protect merchandise or cash. If confronted by an assailant that they deem to be dangerous, no museum shop staff member should ever do anything that could place them in danger. If a bad guy has a weapon or makes a threat, let them take the stuff, then call the police.

    Another issue to be aware of is that it may not be legal for you or your staff to detain someone who has stolen from your store. Forcibly detaining someone might give them grounds for civil and criminal complaints against you, in addition to potentially being dangerous. Always be careful when confronting someone you suspect of shoplifting or other theft.

    That being said, there are lots of things that you and your staff can do to eliminate the likelihood of ever having to deal with bad guys.

    We have a rule that there must always be at least two museum personnel in near proximity to the admissions desk and museum store. This helps to insure the safety of our staff, and also guarantees that we've got extra help nearby if a tour bus unexpectedly shows up.

    Events like armed robberies or after-hours break-ins are thankfully fairly rare. The two most common sources of loss in retail stores are shoplifting and employee theft. Shoplifting is an obvious threat.

    Unfortunately, employee theft is not as uncommon as we'd like it to be. Of course, none of our staffs would ever steal from our stores, but there are times when people just seem to think that since we've got 100 of those t-shirts in stock, no one will ever miss one, or who just can't handle the volume of cash that touches their fingers without some of it ending up in their pockets.

    In all matters relating to security, vigilance is the key to minimizing problems. You and your staff should always remain aware. If someone is acting strangely or the numbers don't seem quite right, something probably is not quite right.

    The good news is, just having a well-trained staff who do their jobs is the most important thing you can do. For example, shoplifters are much less likely to try to steal if they know someone is watching them.

    Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart and the most successful retailer of all time, came up with the idea to put greeters at the entrance to each of his stores because he figured that no one would steal if they thought their grandmother was watching them. It makes a difference.

    If your store staff is paying attention to each guest that enters your store, greeting them and following the other recommendations for good customer service, you remove most opportunities that those so inclined would have to steal from your store. 

    Do everything you can to make it easy for your staff to see what's going on in the store at all times.

    This includes things like cash register placement. When developing your store layout you do not want to put the "cash and wrap" in a spot that will block interested shoppers from getting into the store (the problem we have at Nohwike' Bágowa), but you do want to place it where your staff can easily see the store exits and the sales floor.

    It's also a good idea not to display small, unsecured items in a back corner of the shop, or anywhere else where it's easy for a shoplifter to access them unseen.

    As discussed before, I think there is real merchandising value to placing items where shoppers can touch them. Try to create those opportunities in places where your shop staff will be able to keep an eye on the activity, like near your checkout counter. This is all obvious, common-sense stuff, but it does make a difference in discouraging "shrinkage."

    Minimizing employee theft is also mostly common sense. Well trained, engaged staff members who are personally invested in your institution's success are less likely to be inclined to steal. 

    Be sure you keep close tabs on your sales, cash transactions, and inventory. You should trust your employees, but also make it your responsibility to keep track of what's going on. Building a culture of trust in which everyone knows their job and is always aware of your store's mission will help.

    You can't always tell who might succumb to temptation, as I have unfortunately learned the hard way.


    Security cameras can be helpful deterrents to all forms of theft. In fact, the simple presence of visible cameras can be enough to discourage many would-be thieves.

    In the past, there was a thriving business in pseudo-security cameras: fakes that businesses installed to make people think that they were being filmed.  In the last few years real camera systems have gotten so much better and cheaper that it doesn't make sense to pay for fakes anymore.

    Security cameras are useful, but they are not the be-all, end-all answer to store security. One of the most significant limitations to security cameras is that you have to know something has happened, and generally when it happened, for them to be of any real value. You will likely not be able to afford to have a security person monitoring your cameras all the time, and you can easily find yourself spending dozens of hours watching your security footage if you know something has happened but not when. Example: that $600 soapstone sculpture that was on that display stand with five other sculptures is missing. We noticed it today, but who knows how long it's been gone.

    So you go to your surveillance video files and check the (digital equivalent of) tape for each morning going back until you see the piece there (if you happen to have a camera where it would be visible). Then you have to narrow down your search by each hour until you see it missing, then watch to see what happened to it. If you do not get a good view of the thief, or no one from your staff recognizes the perpetrator, you still don't get much out of it. If the stolen piece is not clearly visible from your security cameras, you will never be able to track when it was taken.

    But they can work! We were using an antiquated VHS tape-based system when a kid stole our donation box a few years ago.

  • October 15, 2015 10:23 AM | Gwin Coleman (Administrator)

    By Stevan P. Layne, CPP, CIPM, CIPI
    Founding Director, IFCPP

    I once asked a museum director if his institution did background screening on its volunteers.  “Are you crazy,” he replied.  “If we did that, we wouldn’t have any volunteers.”   I’m not sure if that was an indication that none of them would pass the screen, or if none of them would submit to it.  

    All of us recognize the many benefits a strong volunteer program brings to an institution.  In many places, volunteers far outnumber paid staff.   Without the work they provide, some programs could conceivably be lost.   We forget, however, that volunteers are just “people.”  And people, given the right opportunity, steal.  People, with the proper motivation, take advantage of other people…financially, physically, even sexually.   It logically follows, therefore, that any “people” brought into the workforce, regardless of whether or not they are compensated, should undergo a reasonable screening of their background and character.  This exactly the language used by the courts in examining cases of negligent hiring.   We screen to protect the good people in the workforce, visitors, and other volunteers, from being subjected to our exposed to those who would take advantage of them, or cause harm.

    The level of depth of the screening should be dependent on the applicant’s exposure to people and access to assets.   ALL applicants should undergo a thorough check for criminal histories.  It should be asked on the application and verified by a records check.  This may be done directly through the courts or through a professional background service.

    If the applicant is serving to greet guests, has access to no keys, assets, or classes with minor children, then minimal screens may be performed.   The information on the application needs to be verified.  If a falsehood is discovered, the process is over and the applicant should be denied.  This includes employment history, driving record, education, licenses or certifications held.  Credit histories should be performed on all of those persons who will handle cash or accessioned artwork.

    Everyone should be able to account for their time, for no less than the past ten years.  You have to be somewhere….gainfully employed, in school, in the military, undergoing health care…or in prison.   Some records must exist, somewhere, which verifies this existence.  Women who were married and not employed should have access to tax records showing a joint return for the time period in question.

    If volunteers are asked to perform certain tasks with special knowledge or education, they should be trained identically to paid employees who perform those tasks.  The bottom line…Volunteers are worth their weight in gold.  Just be sure they’re not taking the gold with them….


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