Securing Your Dealership
Some common sense practices coupled with technology can help keep your dealership safe from thieves.
By Denise L. Rondini, Executive Editor
Truck dealerships are as vulnerable to theft as any other business. And unfortunately, many dealers have been victimized by thieves who have taken any things from technicians’ tools, fuel out of trucks on their lots to entire wheel and tires assemblies.
The first line of defense against theft is good lighting and a fence around the dealership yard. According to John Ray III, president of Sonitrol, a security solutions provider, “Typically what we see for security at a truck dealership is pretty good lighting. You want to keep the lot lit up.”
He adds, “Ideally you want a fence around the dealership so nobody is walking around after hours who isn’t supposed to be there. If people are able to walk around the lot after hours you are inviting trouble.”
While a security system might not be the first thing on your mind, you want to be pro-active about it. “A security system is like the roof of your house,” Ray says. “If you have extra money at the end of the year you are going to put in a new kitchen or re-do your bathroom. The only time you are going to re-do your roof is when it is leaking.”
He adds, “I think the average dealer looks at security and decides he does not want to spend thousands of dollars on a security system when he could spend the money one something else. Typically he is only going to invest in a security system after the fact, after he has been hit.
“He needs to put it on the front end because with the first bad event, the system can potentially pay for itself.”
Many dealers also have installed unmonitored cameras on their lots. While these may not protect them from theft, they may be helpful to law enforcement in catching the thief after the fact. In extreme cases some dealers have even invested in security guards to protect their premises.
“If you are able to fence the dealership in and have great lighting, then you are setting yourself up for the perfect security scenario,” Ray says. “Then you can use technology that allows a central station to react properly.”
That technology includes adding a video motion beam sensor system and motion detectors. “If you do this, the minute someone walks on the lot and trips a beam a live video feed or video clip is sent to [the security company’s] central station,” Ray says.
“The key word in the security business today is verify,” Ray explains. “That means that either someone sees what is going on or hears what is going on.” With a video system, once a sensor is tripped a video clip is sent to the security company and an alarm alerts them that there is a potential problem. “Then they can look at the live feed from the dealership and determine if a raccoon or something triggered the alert or if someone actually is on the lot.”
According to Ray, many police departments are not enamored with conventional alarm systems because they can’t verify the type of intrusion. He says that when it comes to alarms the false alarm rate is 90 percent. Outside systems that use video monitoring can verify what actually is happening on the dealership’s lot.
“For example, the alarm company can tell the police ‘I am seeing a guy in a blue shirt and he is going into a Mack truck,’” Ray says. This means law enforcement personnel will only be dispatched in cases where crimes actually are being committed.
Ray also advises dealers to think about how the trucks are places on their lots. “You want to have a clear line of sight so if you happen to tap into the camera remotely, you can very quickly see if everything is where it is supposed to be.”
In addition, make sure all trees and bushes are kept trimmed so as not to impact a clear line of sight.
For inside buildings, Ray recommends either video or audio monitoring. You can install cameras or microphones throughout your facility to monitor activity.
If someone is breaking into your dealership the motion detector will trip the camera or the microphone and send live feeds to the monitoring station. If you are using an audio system, the security company can notify the police and tell them exactly what they hear.
For example, if two people are in the dealership talking about which tools to steal, the security company can relate those details to law enforcement. This will give them a clearer picture of what they will have to deal with.
Ray says video monitoring systems can serve as productivity tools. If a dealer is traveling, he can tap into the camera and see what is happening at his dealership. “If you see someone doing a good job, when you return to the dealership you can walk up to him, give him a pat on the back and say, ‘Bob, I tapped into the camera yesterday and saw you working really hard on that truck. Good job.’ This does two things,” Ray says. “It allows you to give the guy an atta boy and it reinforces the fact that you are watching what is going in your business.”