The 7 most common items stolen in commercial burglaries

If you’re a business operating in the UK today then the threat of crime – both on and offline - is something you simply cannot afford to ignore. Indeed, UK businesses saw a 9% increase in theft over the past three years, with one police force reporting a rise of 3,292% on their patch.

Here in the south, Dorset and Surrey are amongst the top five areas with the largest increases, whilst London still holds the crown for the highest total number of thefts committed – experiencing 14 times more than the national average.

But what assets are criminals most keen to get their hands on? And what steps can businesses take to better protect themselves?

Based on news reports and insurance statistics, here we’ve pulled together the seven most common commercial items UK criminals are targeting.


  1. Cash

As you might expect, cash is one of the top targets for criminals; whether it’s petty cash, employees’ wallets, the day’s takings or even charity boxes. And it’s easy to see why if you consider that cash is lightweight, generally easy to locate and in most cases will be untraceable.

Unfortunately, the ease with which cash can be taken also makes it a prime target for dishonest employees. Limiting who has access to cash in your business is one way to help remove temptation for an opportunistic thief.


  1. Laptops

Laptops are another item commonly targeted in business burglaries, as well as domestic and vehicle break-ins. Among the reasons they are so favoured is how portable they are, their re-sale value and the ease with which they can be sold on or pawned.

Earlier this year, the NHS revealed that laptop and mobile electronic thefts within UK hospitals had risen by a third, while in July 2019 an NHS employee in Wales was sentenced to 20 months for selling £18,000 worth of stolen work laptops.


  1. Mobile phones

Mobile phones remain an incredibly desirable target for criminals - and not just for opportunistic thieves who may grab one that’s been left unattended. Such is the market value of second-hand smartphones that criminal gangs are now running entire operations based on stealing and reselling mobile devices.

Some estimates put the number of mobile phones stolen in Britain annually as being more than 60,000 devices, so it pays to be cautious. Never leave phones or devices unattended and in plain sight. Overnight, encourage staff to lock such devices away, so if an intruder is to gain entry it would be much harder for them to grab and run.


  1. Vans

Van thefts have risen by nearly 50% since 2015, with an average 22 vans reported stolen in the UK every day. This is a sobering statistic for freight carriers, fleet managers and trades-based businesses, for whom vans are an intrinsic part of their day-to-day operations.

Some of the basic precautions you can take to reduce the risk is to securely lock all vehicle keys away and to never have them obviously stored near a door. Introducing physical barriers on site can also help, or at the very least slow progress. For example, bollards, barriers and perimeter fencing can all impede entry and exit from a site.


  1. Tools

One in three tradespeople in Britain has been the victim of tool theft and recent statistics show the appetite among criminals for tools is on the rise. Between 2016 and 2018 insurers reported a 54% hike in tool insurance claims, with nearly 900 claims made in 2018 alone. Of the tradesmen affected, builders were the hardest hit.

Tools are commonly stolen from vans or commercial premises overnight, under the cover of darkness. While a solid tool insurance policy should cover the cost of replacing any lost items, the short-term repercussions from loss of earnings and inability to trade can be devastating to sole traders and small businesses in particular. So, it pays to think about security and to take adequate precautions early on.


  1. Precious metal

Precious metals may not seem a likely target for commercial criminals, but you’d be surprised. Recent surges in the price of precious metals - in particular, palladium and rhodium, which now sell for £1,300/oz and £4000/oz respectively - have led to these materials becoming increasingly popular targets for criminals.

Despite legislation, such as the Scrap Metals Dealers Act 2013, demand is such that the theft of items such as catalytic converters has skyrocketed in recent months. Once stolen, the converters are often sold on to scrap metal dealers for cash. The lack of a paper trail can mean it is incredibly difficult for police to trace and prosecute those responsible.


  1. Jewellery

Jewellery has always been an attractive score for burglars and despite some criminals switching their attention to electronic goods, the appetite for precious jewels remains strong.

Asian gold is one of the most sought after types of jewellery targeted in the UK, with a recent BBC investigation finding that more than £140m worth of Asian gold jewellery has been stolen in Britain in the last five years. Of the 43 UK police forces questioned, nearly 28,000 instances of Asian Gold theft were highlighted, the largest concentration taking place in London and Manchester.


And it’s not just assets on the premises that need protecting…

Of course, it’s not only on the business premises that thefts can be committed. The opportunity to intercept and snatch business inventory whilst in transit is another common target for criminal enterprises. An estimated £14 million worth of goods being lost in the UK, between April and June 2018 alone.

Common tactics used to commit goods-in-transit crimes include driver diversion, hijackings and “smash and grabs”. It’s also typical for break-ins to occur when loaded vehicles are parked up and the driver is absent, or even when vehicles are being loaded and may be left unattended for a short period of time.


Minimising the risk of theft from your business

If you want to minimise the risk of your business being the victim of a break-in or burglary, the first step is to ensure you have a comprehensive physical security strategy in place – one which assesses the individual threats to your business, premises and assets and how best to manage them.

For more ideas and advice, see: 9 top tips for improving your workplace security and also What security measures should your business invest in?


Professional security you can trust

And if you want professional support, then we can help!

For more than a decade, Venture Security has been providing professional security services to customers based across Hampshire, Wiltshire and the broader central/southern region.

All our security officers are SIA-licenced, and we’re ranked amongst the top 5% of SIA approved security providers in the UK. Our most popular services include mobile patrols, manned guarding, and key holding and alarm response, which start from as little as 75p a day.

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