December 27, 2017
Put the Criminals on Notice
High-visible signage detailing your FFL’s physical security features can send the criminal element to an easier target.
What a difference a sign makes! Call me crazy, but when I was overseeing more than 100,000 firearms as a corporate security director, I learned fast that security awareness signage was a critical element in preventing thefts. With more than 90 locations across 17 states, I was constantly aware that a burglary or firearms loss could occur at any moment, not just in the wee hours of the evening. Take my word for it, you need to experience only one bad burglary — followed by the public outcry for more security — before you’re quickly looking for ways to increase your store’s security.
More than anything else I learned about burglar alarm and closed-circuit security camera systems during that time as a corporate security director for a large firearms chain retailer was the fact that alarms and cameras told you what occurred and when, and even possibly who the perpetrators were. What they do not do is deter the desperate and brazen criminals. To keep them at bay, creative steps needed to be taken.
Assess and Cover the Basics
My first approach to “target hardening,” a term used in security and protection circles to describe the process of increasing physical security protection, was to assess the exterior perimeter protection of our stores to make it more difficult for criminals to penetrate our buildings. This included adding bollards or decorative landscape boulders (and even Jersey barriers where appropriate), adding Lexan film glass protection where it was missing, reinforcing fire exits with barricade locks after hours and reinforcing receiving area overhead doors after hours. These best practices had not been a part of our initial security design and store build-out, but after several unexpected and highly-publicized burglaries, our pre-construction planning for future stores was upgraded with these features.
Beyond these physical improvements, we also made the corporate decision to remove, at the end of each business day, all handguns from displays in which vandal-proof cases and security glass were not installed. That requires an investment in labor, but it’s a major step forward in preventing handguns from being stolen. As I’ve mentioned before, the more layers of security you have in place the better! Remember, your goal, at minimum, is to slow down the bad guys in the event you can’t deter them completely.
Put the Crooks on Notice
Now for the icing on the cake. After making a significant financial investment in our premise and firearms protection program, we told the criminals about it! Yes, we conveyed to the public exactly what our security features were in writing via awareness signage at the front and rear of every facility. Prior, we had your typical alarm company and “CCTV Cameras in Use” decals posted, but we now added highly visible signage that stated, “All Firearms Removed and Secured After Hours.”
This should be the next step in your program. I continue to hear of FFLs being burglarized when all guns are secured and inaccessible after hours and the stores are lacking this signage. This, of course, results in unnecessary insurance deductibles, repair expenses and downtime. The message you’re conveying to criminals with this signage is that the really valuable stuff is locked away, so don’t waste your time breaking in.
Not only did our glass upgrade and signage program increase our confidence in our approach to securing our firearms after hours but we decreased our incidence of burglary in the years following and eliminated much unnecessary public outcry regarding stolen firearms on the streets. Here’s how you can accomplish the same things:
- Inspect the exterior of your facility and evaluate what signage currently exists. Are your alarm company decals faded and in need of replacement? Are they installed at all entry points to your building?
- Does your landlord or management company have Neighborhood Watch signs installed anywhere? Add them if not.
- Evaluate what other signs in your store are clearly visible to visitors and would-be criminals, signs that plainly tell them you are a highly secure and concerned FFL. When adding additional signage, consider the following list. Most should be available online or can be printed locally for a modest cost. Your local law enforcement can also make specific suggestions:
- These Premises Protected by CCTV
- Premises Under 24-hour Remote CCTV Surveillance
- ATF “Theft of Firearms Warning” sign (statute 18 U.S.C – 922 u)
- All Firearms Removed and Secured After Hours
- NO TRESPASSING — Violators Will be Prosecuted
- Authorized Personnel Only Beyond This Point
- Guard Dogs on Duty
- Area Patrolled by Local Police
- We Show One Firearm at a Time
- ID Required for Firearms Showings
NSSF’s Store Security Audit team is standing by to assist you with any physical or operational security issue you may have. For more information, visit the Retailer section of NSSF.org. NSSF also partners with a variety of security vendors that often provide significant discounts on their products and services to NSSF Members. Log in to the Members-only side of NSSF.org to learn more.
About the Author
John Bocker is an NSSF Security Consultant Team Member and the Managing Director at JB Group, LLC, based in Denver, Colorado. JB Group is a business security and strategy consulting organization specializing in ATF FFL compliance and protecting FFL’s against unexpected losses resulting from burglary, robbery and internal control failures. Visit www.jbgroup.org or call 720-514-0609 for more information.