As the nights draw in and the temperature drops, businesses across the UK are beginning their preparations for the Christmas period. For some, it means activity ramps up to the highest it gets all year, for others, it means their premises stand largely empty.

From a security perspective, busy and empty premises both attract their own type of risk and extra measures are often needed to prevent loss as a result of criminal activity.

Indeed, statistics show that properties with no security are up to five times more likely to be targeted by criminals over the holiday season, with vacant properties and empty sites proving to be particularly attractive hunting grounds.

Christmas has always been a time when criminals become more active, but with the impact of the pandemic, compounded by the current cost of living crisis, it is feared that this year incidents could soar.

Businesses, however, are not powerless in the face of this threat. In this piece, we’ll go through some proven and practical steps that you can take to ensure your enterprise stays safe this Christmas.

Hire security guards

Obviously, engaging with a professional security company in order to hire security guards is not for every business. Popping into a village corner shop, for example, would be a bewildering experience if a burly team of uniformed security were patrolling the confectionery aisle.

For other, larger businesses, the deployment of security guards is one of the most effective methods for stopping and deterring criminal acts.

Large department stores, construction sites, and the likes of warehouse and office complexes that close for the holidays are all prime targets for criminals. Having trained and accredited security officers patrol these spaces make them targets few feel comfortable taking aim at.

However, before undertaking this measure, it’s important to bring in personnel that know what they’re doing. Any company can lay claim to having security guards for hire, but not all security guards are the same.

Engage with a professional security company with a track record of delivery that can provide SIA-accredited, multi-skilled officers trained in a range of tasks from performing risk assessments and health and safety checks, to carrying out responsible physical restraint and liaising with emergency services.

Deploy CCTV

Even the very best security guards can’t see everything that happens on a premises at all times. But CCTV can.

That said, much like security guards, not all CCTV is the same. Moreover, however good the cameras are, they are little more than ornamental if not installed correctly.

Ahead of the festive bonanza, look for a security company that will deploy specialist security technicians. As part of the process, these technicians will perform full site assessments to establish the best installation strategy for your premises before developing a comprehensive CCTV plan that ensures camera coverage is maximized.

By complementing your CCTV infrastructure with 24/7 monitoring and a rapid response platform, you can prevent the start of the new year being mired by misleading insurance claims, costly legal battles, and undetected criminal acts with footage that is legally admissible.

If you already have CCTV, now is the time to test it. Review who within the business is able to disable and activate cameras and make whichever changes align with who is in or out over the Christmas weeks.

As part of this testing process, check that visibility is adequate when it’s dark. If it’s not, your lighting may need to be looked at, which brings us neatly to the next step.

Review your perimeter lighting

There is no greater friend to the would-be intruder than the cover of darkness. Even intelligently positioned HD CCTV cameras will struggle to identify trespassers dressed in black in the dead of night.

A well-lit site will not only deter criminals from crossing your perimeters, it will deter them from engaging in ‘stakeouts’ ahead of planned activity. As ill-intentioned as they are, today’s criminals are not stupid. They know that if they’re seen loitering around potential access points to a premises, security measures tighten accordingly. This being the case, make sure any new or existing security lighting illuminates your whole site, right up to the peripheries.

Quality security lighting doesn’t have to break the bank either. Motion-sensitive lighting means the lights only ever come on when they’re needed, and fitted with LED bulbs, energy usage is even lower, which means your bills are too.

Similarly, if it’s only the dark winter months where you feel your premises are most vulnerable, temporary lighting solutions make for a cost-effective option.

Monitor site visitors more vigilantly

For a whole range of sectors, Christmas can be a busy – if not the busiest – time of year. Typically, this means a higher volume of incoming and outgoing deliveries, a fact not lost on criminals.

Within hectic seasonal environments, a random person wandering around in a hi-vis vest will blend into the background a little too easily. Another fact not lost on criminals.

To prevent your business from succumbing to criminal activity, there is a range of access control systems for all entry points that are proven to be effective. These can include:

Biometric access using fingerprint scanning technology

Electronic locks and readers PIN, fobs, and ID cards Video entry and intercom Barriers, bollards, and gates Facial recognition technology Lock-up procedures At a time of year when businesses tend to have more stock within the premises, end-of-day lock-ups carry added risk and responsibility. Wherever possible, they should always involve more than one person.

Criminals will often look for lone employees who are left to complete lock-ups at night, especially if the assets inside are particularly valuable, and some will think nothing of traumatizing that person if it means a handsome loot is the reward.

At the very least, ensure two employees are assigned with the responsibility of locking up during the Christmas break. But if you’d prefer something more heavy-duty, ensuring all entrance points, exit points, doors, and windows are locked and secured is a service that can be outsourced.

Consider a key holding service

It’s a nightmare scenario at the best of times, but criminal incidents on days like Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve are particularly devastating. Getting a call that there’s been a break-in and knowing that you not only need to find the site keys but must somehow then travel to the site is a situation no business owner wishes to experience.

Of course, this is a job you can entrust to a colleague, but it’s rarely advisable to assume your appointed keyholder will be available, contactable, or – depending on the weather – physically able to get to the site.

An increasingly popular alternative is to make use of a professional keyholding service. Here, an appointed security company keeps a set of your business’ keys in a secure locker, handing them over only to a designated security guard so they can access the premises and investigate the incident.

For you, it means that no matter when a callout occurs over the Christmas period, responses to alarms are dealt with by a qualified security professional.

Arm your intruder alarm

On the topic of alarms, check yours is properly armed before locking up at the end of each day of the festive period. Especially if your business is closed for most of it.

If you have a new alarm system that’s set to an automatic timer, remember to adjust it so it doesn’t disable for the extended time that you’re away. Ideally, if your office or site is going to stand empty for days or even weeks, you need to be programming your alarm to be on 24/7.

Vacant properties benefit as much from alarms as any other, but only if there’s someone who can respond when they’re triggered. If you have some concerns around how long your premises will be closed over Christmas, or you have any other unguarded site you fear may be particularly vulnerable, keep an eye out for security companies that specialize in safeguarding vacant properties.

Use clear signage

Our final tip is to make sure that anyone who visits or passes your business knows exactly what measures you’ve taken to keep your business secure.

The likes of CCTV may help with prosecutions in the event of a criminal investigation. However, installing CCTV cameras also acts as an effective visual deterrent and can prevent criminal activity from taking place on your premises.

Therefore, if cameras aren’t immediately visible or a new alarm system has only just been installed, make sure anyone passing through, for whatever reason, knows about them with clear and obvious signage.