Small-business owners prepare for slow months, seasonal slumps, and staffing interruptions. They even spend time planning for natural disasters, cash flow shortages, and changes in government regulations. But one of the last things most businesses are ever thinking about is being looted in times of social turbulence.
That is, unfortunately, what is happening today to an increasing number of New York City businesses. The NYPD has reported a 75% increase in burglaries of businesses since March 12. Ben Chapman and Keiko Morris report for The Wall Street Journal:
The increase in burglaries coincided with steps to stop the spread of the coronavirus. On March 15, the city ordered restaurants and bars to cease on-site service, prompting many establishments to close altogether or limit operations. A March 20 decree by Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for the closure of all nonessential businesses, leading many retail stores to shutter.
“We knew with the closing of many stores that we could see an increase and, unfortunately, we are,” said NYPD Chief of Crime Control Strategies Michael LiPetri.
The increase in commercial burglaries comes as major crimes across the city fell during the pandemic. From March 12 through March 31, major felonies, such as rapes, murders and assaults, fell by nearly 20% when compared with the same period in 2019, dropping to 3,740 such crimes from 4,670 a year earlier.
But Mr. LiPetri said that break-ins of eateries, supermarkets and retail establishments are fueling a rise in commercial burglaries. There were 30 burglaries of supermarkets and bodegas between March 12 and March 31, according to NYPD data, a 400% increase from six such incidents recorded during the same period a year earlier. Burglaries of eateries nearly doubled, rising to 51 incidents in 2020 from 28 incidents in 2019.
Thieves are taking currency, electronics and consumables, such as food, alcohol and retail goods from businesses, Mr. LiPetri said. They gain entry to closed businesses by forcing open doors, breaking windows or climbing in from rooftops, he said.
One of the easiest ways to protect your business is to board it up, and that is the route many New York City businesses are taking.
Looters are criminals and the police are doing what they can, but when it comes to protecting a building from intruders, it’s actually America’s firefighters who may be able to help businesses better understand the threat and to prepare for it.
Fire departments regularly face the threat of arson in abandoned buildings and have developed guidance for protecting those buildings from intruders. Much of that guidance can be applied directly to businesses shuttered by COVID-19. Click here for a PDF from the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) and the US Fire Administration (USFA). It explains techniques for protecting buildings from intruders planning to damage them. If your business might be threatened by looting, prepare now, before it’s too late.
New York isn’t the only place at risk. Moody’s found that Nevada is the state most likely to suffer the type of business collapse that drives people toward crime and looting. According to NBC 3 News, Las Vegas:
Nevada will likely be the hardest hit state economically because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moody’s analyzed six metrics from data compiled on Mar. 30: exposure to the virus, demographics, travel, tourism, finance and commodities.
Economic turmoil makes people do crazy things, whether through desperation or opportunism. Prepare yourself and your family now to avoid these problems later.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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