Crime prevention within municipal operations can be an important way to mitigate related risk. Steps towards crime prevention can include securing premises, implementing financial management systems, preventing theft of special equipment, marketing all valuable property, and assigning costs associated with possible theft scenarios.

The most tempting targets for thieves include:

  • Cash and other items of considerable value
  • Special machines, equipment, vehicles, etc.
  • Items that can be resold
  • Confidential materials
  • Computers and electronics

Step 1: Ensure Premises Are Secure

Depending on the amount of valuable goods stored on the premise, the degree of protection required will vary. Begin by considering protection of buildings.

Building Exterior

  • Use less damageable materials such as concrete walls, steel doors and “plastic” windows.
  • Ensure yard is surrounded by a fence that has a lockable gate. Fences should be tall enough to discourage climbing.
  • Keep premise clean and well lit.
  • Do not leave valuable property, flammable materials, ladders or items that may be used to break a window outdoors.
  • Ensure structures are sufficiently strong. Windows, walls, roofs and floors should be reasonably maintained.
  • Ensure rooftop is not easily accessible.
  • Ensure landscaping does not provide an area where offenders may hide.

Building Interior

  • Equip doors with sturdy locks.
  • Fit windows with tamperproof locks.
  • Ensure premise is clean and tidy.
  • Document a list all valuables that are placed inside a building. In the event that a theft or break-in occurs, the valuables that are missing or damaged can be immediately reported. If necessary, photograph all valuables.
  • Keep interiors well-lit.

Monitor the Property

  • Regularly inspect and maintain premises.
  • Install a continuously monitored intruder detection system with motion detectors and/or surveillance cameras.  Keep in mind privacy restrictions.  This system may also be used to monitor smoke detectors, temperature, water level, etc. 
  • Install smoke detectors and fire alarms.

Do not allow unauthorized access to municipal premises

  • Implement a key security policy for premises:

Ensure key-holders are known and documented and that keys are returned after employment ends.

  • Keep a visitor log.
  • Keep keys in a locked place
  • Ensure background checks on persons are performed before they are hired. See Article 12 Municipal Employees.
  • Place signs in a visible location to warn persons that a security system is in place.
  • Hire security guards to monitor the premise(s).

Storage of valuables

  • Confidential information and securities (i.e. cash) should be stored in a locked area (i.e. a safe).
  • Limit the amount of cash and other valuables stored on-site.
  • Do not leave valuables in a visible or accessible place (i.e. near windows).
  • Ensure that transportation of money and other valuables is secure.
    • The timing of the transportation and the people that transport the valuables should vary.
    • If necessary, a security firm with armored vehicles and trained security personnel should be hired.
  • Larger items such as machinery and vehicles should be stored in a building or a fenced compound.
    • If vehicles are stored in an open lot, surround it with a barrier, such as concrete, timber, fencing, chain or heavy steel pipe, to prevent a vehicle from leaving the lot at night. 

Step 2: Implement a Financial Management System

  1.  Clearly establish financial reporting guidelines.[1]
  2. Determine the average and maximum amounts of cash required daily.
  3. Determine how payment for services will be accepted (i.e. cash, credit cards, cheques, etc.)
  4. Store cheques and cash in a time delay safe until they can be deposited.
  5. Create a daily deposit procedure to discourage large sums of cash from accumulating. If needed, stagger deposit times to avoid suggesting a routine.
  6. Carefully screen persons before allowing them to handle cash. Perform background and reference checks. 
  7. Regularly perform internal and external audits. Implement checks and balances daily.
  8. Divide job responsibilities to ensure that employees can regularly verify each other’s work. 
  9. Determine who has access to safes and/or vaults.
  10. Ensure that more than one employee performs accounting, bookkeeping and cheque disbursement functions (if possible).

Step 3: Prevent Theft of Special Machines, Equipment and Vehicles

  1. Implement key control measures for machines, equipment and vehicles:
  2. Keep all keys in a locked case and require employees to sign keys out and back in (preferably with a witness).
  3. Count keys at least twice a day.
  4. Move keys to a locked safe after hours.
  5. Require municipal employees to wear uniforms or name tags for easy identification.
  6. Keep doors to machines and vehicles locked when employees are away.
  7. Do not leave machines or vehicles unattended while they are running.
  8. Do not leave spare sets of keys in equipment.
  9. Do not leave valuables or equipment in plain view.

Step 4: Mark all Valuable Property

  1. Property such as tools, machines, equipment and vehicles should be permanently and clearly marked as property belonging to the municipality.
  2. Mark a serial number on the property.
  3. Keep a log of what equipment is being used, when and by whom (the dates and times it was used and returned).
  4. Perform property audits regularly.

Step 5: Determine the Cost of Crime

  1. Examine the damage that crime may cause.
  2. Determine the direct and indirect costs
  3. Consider the cost of lost work time.
  4. Evaluate the magnitude of crime risk.
  5. Determine additional methods to prevent crime.

By following these five steps, municipalities can put themselves in a great position to begin applying best practices to alleviate the risks associated with local crime.