Commercial Burglary Prevention

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What is a burglary?

Arizona revised statute describes a burglary as :

13-1506. Burglary in the third degree; classification

  1. A person commits burglary in the third degree by entering or remaining unlawfully in or on a nonresidential structure or in a fenced commercial or residential yard with the intent to commit any theft or any felony therein.
  2. Burglary in the third degree is a class 4 felony.

13-1501. Definitions In this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires:

  • "Enter or remain unlawfully" means an act of a person who enters or remains on premises when such person's intent for so entering or remaining is not licensed, authorized or otherwise privileged except when the entry is to commit theft of merchandise displayed for sale during normal business hours, when the premises are open to the public and when the person does not enter any unauthorized areas of the premises.
    To deal with the above exception. Clearly label all employee only areas, including behind the counters and registers.
  • "Entry" means the intrusion of any part of any instrument or any part of a person's body inside the external boundaries of a structure or unit of real property.
  • "Fenced commercial yard" means a unit of real property surrounded completely by either fences, walls, buildings, or similar barriers or any combination thereof, and used primarily for business operations or where livestock, produce or other commercial items are located.
  • "Fenced residential yard" means a unit of real property immediately surrounding or adjacent to a residential structure and enclosed by a fence, wall, building or similar barrier, or any combination thereof.
  • "In the course of committing" means any acts performed by an intruder from the moment of entry to and including flight from the scene of a crime.
  • "Nonresidential structure" means any structure other than a residential structure.
  • "Residential structure" means any structure, movable or immovable, permanent or temporary, adapted for both human residence and lodging whether occupied or not.
  • "Structure" means any vending machine, building, object, vehicle, railroad car or place with sides and a floor, separately securable from any other structure attached to it and used for lodging, business, transportation, recreation or storage.
  • "Vending machine" means a machine that dispenses merchandise or service through the means of currency, coin, token, credit card or other non-personal means of accepting payment for merchandise or service received.

Just for your information

13-1508. Burglary in the first degree; classification

  • A. A person commits burglary in the first degree if such person or an accomplice violates the provisions of either section 13-1506 or 13-1507 and knowingly possesses explosives, a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument in the course of committing any theft or any felony.
  • B. Burglary in the first degree of a nonresidential structure or a fenced commercial or residential yard is a class 3 felony. It is a class 2 felony if committed in a residential structure.

Understanding the legal definition of a burglary is a small step towards prevention. The biggest step is to "think like a burglar".

  • Look at your physical property from the burglar's view.
  • Look at it in the daylight and at night.

Look for the following things first:

  • Open or unlocked doors.
  • Heavy objects like river rocks used by employees to prop open doors and can be used at night to smash in a window
  • Items or fixtures that provide easy rooftop access
  • If you have fencing, is it in good repair. NOTE: Fencing attached to your building can provide rooftop access.
  • Do you have skylights or other roof top entrance points that are unlocked or not alarmed.
  • Does darkness or landscaping create hiding spots for the burglar.
  • Have your employees circumvented your security measures for convenience? (smokers disabling the back door alarms)


The easiest way to get into your business is through your glass windows. To minimize this vulnerability, you could use metal bars. This may have a negative effect on your overall marketing plan so it may not be a realistic approach for you. If this is the case you can use polycarbonate sheets over glass and glass doors. It recommend you have this professionally installed.

Another more expensive alternative is safety glass. Safety glass is certainly appropriate in certain industries that use pass through windows.

Don't forget to lock your windows and consider putting a bolt or screw in your window frame to keep them from being lifted out of the tracks or forced open.


The weakest part of a door is the lock. If you don?t use it, it does not work. The lock needs to be a double key deadbolt, with a 1? or more throw bolt. Look for a lock with a hardened steel insert to resist sawing.

The strike plate should be attached to the doorframe with screws that measure 3 inches or more. This will keep the burglar from ?kicking? the door in.

The double cylinder deadbolt lock requires a key to open from inside and out. This keeps burglars from breaking glass in the door and reaching through to turn the knob from inside. It also prevents them from exiting through the door if they've entered through the roof or window. Make sure the cylinder of the lock has a steel guard - a ring around the key section. The cylinder guard should be tapered or rotate around the key section (if twisted) to prevent wrenching.

Remember, though, a double cylinder deadbolt can also block your exit in an emergency. Check with your local building inspector to see if these locks are permitted in your area.


Make absolutely sure that your hinges are on the inside of your business. No hinges should be on the outside if at all possible. If you do have hinges on the outside of your business, then remove the center screw from each side of the hinge and insert a headless screw or metal pin on one side. When the door closes the end of the pin will insert into the hole of the opposite side and prohibit the lifting of the door.


Overhead doors, receiving doors, garage doors - all are typically secured with padlocks and hasps. Look for sturdy padlocks that don't release the key until the padlock is locked. That way you'll never leave a padlock unlocked. Remember that a padlock is only as good as the hasp it is mounted on. The hasp should be secured with bolts and mounted on a metal plate. Be sure bolts are concealed when the padlock is locked. And - make sure the padlock is case-hardened with a 3/8-inch shackle so it can resist repeated hammering.

Door Construction

Weak doors equal weak protection. Replace hollow core exterior doors. Re-enforce the door frame. If the door can?t be smashed through or kicked in, can it be pried away from the frame? Aluminum or wood door frames are extremely vulnerable to this.

Roof Top Access

Skylights, ventilation ducts, and fire escapes may tempt a burglar because they're usually not visible from the street. To protect skylights from being used as a point of access, alarm them. A ceiling mounted 360 degree motion detector should be used to cover all of these possible points of entry.


Guards can be a deterrent. Consider ways to split the cost with other businesses in your area. Look for a reputable security business and check references. Make sure the security staff knows who your employees are, store hours, and shoplifting, internal theft policies.


Light may be one of the best crime deterrents. In fact, burglary rates decrease over summer months, due to shorter hours of darkness. As a rule, light up all dark areas. However, Before putting up so much as a candle, check your local ordinances for a ?dark sky rule? that limits the amount of ambient light visible at night. This means businesses can be fined for excessive light pollution.


Alarms are not a physical barrier to entry, like a good lock or door. They are an entry detection and notification tool. They may not keep the burglar out, but they will keep him from staying. Make sure your alarm has:

  • a battery back-up.
  • double as a fire alarm.
  • a way to check whether the system is working.
  • Monitored by someone with specific instructions to call the police if two or more of the following things are true:
    • Activation is after store hours.
    • Owner can not be reached.
    • More than one zone has activated. (i.e. Front door and interior door or motion detector).

Alarm systems are great tools and can help you sleep at night, but they must be maintained regularly to avoid false alarms. False alarms require at least two officers to check on and this is a waste of police resources. Many cities now fine you for excessive false alarms. Employee training is the cornerstone to controlling this problem as most false alarms occur when opening and closing your business. If you accidentally trigger your alarm take steps to make sure that the alarm company has not dispatched the police. If your employee triggers the alarm and can not shut it off, train them to call you immediately so you can notify the alarm company. Then make sure the alarm company has cancelled the police.
Remember to assign alarm codes to specific people and change them when the employee leaves your company. Don't use your address numbers or the last four numbers of your telephone as the alarm code.


Another great tool that does not get used correctly. Cameras do not solve crimes directly. They help us know who to look for, and are an aid in prosecution. In some cases, this is the only evidence at the scene. Make sure your camera system is working and test the distance from the door to the camera. Stand at the door or desired area of coverage and let yourself be taped. If your face is clear then the camera is properly placed. Many great tapes show nothing but a blur for a face and the evidence is useless for identifying the suspect.


Landscaping can be used as a barrier. Short thorny bushes near windows or cactus are another great alternative. Keep vegetation trimmed up and placed for your advantage.


Mount your safe to the floor. Bolt it directly to the concrete or consider having it professionally installed. Make sure it is fire proof and use it often.

Cash registers

Make sure your cash register is emptied at night. Open the drawer and leave it open so that anyone looking in can see that there is nothing in it.


Keep fencing in good repair. Monitor and quickly repair any holes in or under your fence line. Cactus and spiny shrubs are a great tool at the base of your fences, especially on the outside of the fence if possible. If barbed or razor wire is used, then make sure it is multiple strands and repaired as needed. A common technique for defeating wire on top of fences is to lay carpet on it. Take steps to minimize this weakness by using razor wire in strands of three. A single coil is easy to defeat.

Operation Identification

Many burglars have been caught with the victim?s property in their possession. However, unmarked and unidentifiable property prevented the officer from making an arrest right then and recovering the property. Mark all of you company?s property with your driver's license number or your companies name and address. Keep a complete, up-to-date inventory of your merchandise and property, including your office machinery. Put a copy in your safe deposit box or other location away from the business site.


Establish a routine for "closing up shop," locking doors and windows, and setting alarms. Also have someone inspect the building before opening for business.

Make friends with the businesses or offices that surround you. They are your neighbors. Think about arranging monthly meetings to discuss problems or ideas that will benefit everyone.

A burglary has occurred!

Train your employees

  • Don't go in the business. The burglar may be in there and/or the police may mistake you for the burglar.
  • Don't open for business. Your job now is to try to protect the scene and the evidence until the police are done.
  • Call police immediately.
  • Take an inventory of the loss and get it to the police as soon as possible.