A preliminary analysis by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reveals auto theft significantly rose in 2020 compared to 2019, following two years of declines – with the pandemic and associated consequences likely attributing to the increase.
According to the initial study, “There were 873,080 auto thefts in 2020, a 9.2% increase over 2019, which had 799,644 thefts, a boost of more than 73,000 thefts.” If you consider the FBI’s findings that the average dollar loss per auto theft in 2019 was $8,886, along with the NICB’s estimate that the national recovery rate is only 50%-60%, it’s easy to understand how theft can deal a devastating blow to an auto dealership’s bottom line.
Complicating matters, auto theft isn’t the only criminal act that can result in financial (and reputational) losses for dealerships. There’s also theft of catalytic converters and other car parts, property damage, fraud and vandalism to take into account.
Multilayered Proactive Physical Security
When it comes to keeping trespassers out of your dealership and protecting your premises from all types of crime, it’s important to take a layered approach to physical security – similar to how organizations adopt a defense-in-depth cybersecurity model to defend against cyberattackers. In other words, putting a single camera at the main entrance of your dealership or hiring a security guard to monitor the premises overnight is often not enough of a deterrent to keep criminals off your property.
Your physical security strategy should include multiple layers of protection, and each should be proactive in nature – meaning, it should be designed to identify and stop threats before a crime can be committed. For example, rather than using record-and-store security cameras, which only allow you to play back video of a crime after it has already happened, consider implementing a live video monitoring system with audiovisual alerts to proactively deter crime.
If you’re looking for simple, cost-effective and proactive things you can do today to better deter crime on your property, consider these tips:
- Lock gates and fences protecting the premises. Gates and fences are the first line of defense against trespassers. While having this type of perimeter security can be a visual deterrent for some criminals, others will attempt to bypass it. Every second counts for criminals carrying out an attack, and you don’t want to make it quick and easy for them to get onto your property because you neglected to lock your security gate. This seems like an obvious best practice, but you’d be surprised at how often unlocked gates contribute to successful attacks.
- Block your building’s main entrance with a used car. Smash-and-grab robberies on dealerships are very common. An effective deterrent to prevent these types of attacks is to park your cheapest used car in front of the main entrance before going home each night. Doing so might tack on five minutes to your workday, but it’ll save your company time and money in the long run.
- Put video cameras at the entrance and exit to service bays. Auto dealers also can suffer major financial losses as a result of customer fraud. For example, someone takes their car – which already has a ding in the passenger side door – into the shop for an oil change or tire rotation, but then claims the ding came from the dealership during the service appointment. To prevent fraud claims of this nature, consider placing video surveillance systems at the entrance and exit to service bays. This will allow you to clearly document the quality of cars before and after appointments, and it will equip you with video evidence should you need it to disprove a customer claim.
Your physical security strategy doesn’t have to cost a fortune. But to be effective, it does need to be multilayered, strategic and proactive. And as more dealerships achieve this desired state of security, hopefully we’ll see the national auto theft rate decrease once again.
Jeremy White (pictured above, left) founded Pro-Vigil, a remote video monitoring company, in 2006.