Small Business Safety Tips

Detective Sergeant Dala Milosavljevic of the Cudahy Police Department can conduct a safety analysis of your business, when his schedule permits.  Contact him at (414) 769-2260 ext. 525 or e-mail him for more information.  Detective Milosavljevic also conducts security training for banks and credit unions and makes safety presentations to senior citizens' groups.

According to the National Sheriff's Association, burglary, robbery, shoplifting and fraud cause at least 30% of small business failures.  You cannot control whether a suspect has the desire or ability to commit a crime, but you CAN control opportunity.  Here are some tips to keep you and your business safe:


* Robberies occur at predictable times. Opening and closing periods and lunch hours are particularly vulnerable times due to low staffing and large amounts of cash on hand. Robberies increase during the holiday season due to the increased cash volume and the presence of large crowds that distract and preoccupy store and company personnel.

Report suspicions activity. If you observe an individual or occupied vehicle lingering around your business for a time or in a manner that makes you suspicious or uncomfortable, write down the license number, color of the car and description of the individual(s) and call the Cudahy Police Department.  Be sure to inform other employees of your suspicion.


Check references of prospective employees. Do a background check of previous employers and consider examining an applicant's criminal history.

Keep a file on all employees, including their pictures. Past employees know store procedure and where money is kept. They sometimes share this information with others who use it to plan robberies at the store. Pictures of suspects are much more useful than verbal descriptions.

Re-key locks and alter safe combinations or codes when employees are dismissed for cause.

Establish clear and consistent policies regarding money in the till. Establish how much money will be kept in the till, what bill denominations employees will accept, how to respond to "suspicious" inquires and how to handle loiterers. All employees should be trained and given a written description of store policy. Stress that their commitment to security procedures will reduce their risk of criminal confrontation and physical harm.

Staff should never admit customers to premises after closing hours, particularly when the employee is alone.

Always maintain adequate staff levels. Be especially careful during opening and closing periods, lunch hours and holiday seasons when there is more money on the site and more distractions.

* Store clerks should remain alert to what is going on outside their shop. Carefully observe parked cars with people inside and loiterers in the vicinity. Many robbers like to watch and wait for the right opportunity. If a parked car containing several people has been noticed on many occasions, get the license number and a general description of the occupants. Notify the police. A discreet investigation can be made and no one embarrassed in case the situation is an innocent one. Be sure to notify the individual(s) following your shift of suspicious circumstances.



Good visibility allows employees to be aware of suspicious activities outside the store. It also increases the chance that passersby will observe robberies taking place inside the store.

Keep doors and windows clear. Post any necessary signs to the side, top or bottom of the display windows to allow maximum visibility into and out of the store. This will help customers see your merchandise too.

Locate the cash register in a central place. Keep it in clear view of the door with the customers' backs to the entrance. The register should be visible from the outside.

Keep counter displays low. This allows employees to see over the top. You can also rearrange displays to allow surveillance up and down both sides of each aisle.

Place wide-angle mirrors in strategic locations. This will assist with visibility in blind areas of the store.

Make sure interior lighting provide good visibility in the store at all times. Outdoor lighting should be even and directed toward the sides of the building, not outward where glare can create hiding places for robbers.

* Place height markers at the main entrance so employees can use them to gauge the height of a thief as he or she eaves your business.


Control access to the building. Keep all doors locked except the main entrance. Ask employees to use the main entrance.

Install a lock on the back room door that can be unlocked from the inside. Supply this room with an extra key, a phone and a panic button. This will enable an employee to summon help if locked in during a robbery.

Create a sense of territoriality. People should feel they are on your turf when they enter the store and are not free to do as they wish.

* Install a door signaling system like a buzzer or a bell. This will alert staff of new arrivals.

Use signs inside and outside the store to emphasize your security policy on limited cash on hand and employee inaccessibility to the safe.

Silent "hold-up" alarms should be considered. Alarm signaling devices can be installed on the floor and tripped by foot, wired to a money clip in the till, hidden under the counter or inside an office or freezer, among other possibilities.

Install a "buddy alarm" system. A simple bell or buzzer connected to the neighboring business can be an effective and inexpensive "panic" alarm. It should not be hooked to lights, for a flicker could warn the robber that an alarm has been sent. It should not be loud enough to be heard by the robber. The alarm should be activated only if there is no possibility of detection. A slight movement or sound could trigger a panicking robber into violence.



* Do not keep unnecessary amounts of money in the till. Keep only the amount you will need to conduct normal business and transfer the rest to the bank or a safe. Provide an anchored drop-vault for employees and do not provide them with the key to the safe. Post the fact that you use a drop-vault and therefore cannot make change for large denominations.  Ask customers for exact change or the smallest bills possible.

Post store policy that no more than some pre-determined amount (often $25 to $50) is kept in the register at one time and that the store will accept no larger than $20 denominations. When the clerk receives the $20 bill it should be dropped immediately. Never place large bills in the drawer under the tray. Robbers know this practice.

During the evening, take even greater precautions. Check to see that outside lights are on and working. In money order sales, collect money and make your drop before printing the money order. Open unused register drawers and tip them for display.

* Make trips to the bank often, varying travel times and routes to reduce predictability. Carry money in a disguised container and have someone accompany you when possible. Do not transport money at the same time every day and do not use the same route every time. If you are making a night deposit, do not approach the deposit unless it is clear of other people. For high risk areas or when transferring considerable amounts of cash, consider hiring an armored car service.

List some serial numbers from larger bills before going to the bank. Be aware of any suspicious persons lingering near the store. Call 9-1-1 if necessary.

Drive or walk directly to an open business, police department or fire station if you feel you are being followed while transporting money.


Greet each customer. Establish eye contact and remember their general appearance. Good customer service discourages hesitant robbers as well as other thieves. This attention to detail conveys control and puts people on notice they have been observed and can be identified later.

Consider installing a quality video camera and recorder kept high on the wall but visible. Don't use fake cameras. Robbers know the difference. Have several cameras connected to the system, some visible, some not. Only the managers should have access to the DVD or CD.


City of Cudahy - 5050 S. Lake Drive - Cudahy, WI - 53110

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