The 8-step Guide to Secure Your Office After a Break-in

For anyone handling the aftermath of a break-in

According to the FBI, a burglary occurs every 20 seconds. While we all take precautions to safeguard our homes, we don’t always think about our place of work. The fact is that in 2016 461,537 non-residential buildings, including offices, stores, etc. were burglarized.

Unfortunately, after one successful break-in, your office becomes even more vulnerable to a repeat offense. What’s more, break-ins lead to a general feeling of insecurity amongst employees, staff, customers and others who are affected.

If your office is broken into, it’s essential that you take immediate action to secure the area, regain stability and create a strategic plan to prevent future incidents.

Here are 8 steps that will help you take back control immediately after a break-in:

1. Call the police

According to the FBI’s Crime in the US report, the majority of non-residential crimes occur at night. If you receive an alarm notification after office hours, do not attempt to enter the building. You don’t want to walk into your office while a burglar may still be inside. Contact the police and they will inspect the building for you. Your safety and that of your co-workers comes first.

2. Protect against further theft (short term)

Studies show that 58% of break-ins occur through forcible entry, such as a broken window or door. In these cases, the next step is to get the point of entry repaired as quickly as possible to protect against a repeat burglary in the short term. Make sure to take photos of the broken window or door before getting them fixed, as they may come in handy when filing your police report and insurance claim.

If there are no visible signs of a forced entry, it’s likely the thief acquired a key or gained access to an electronic key card or password. In any event, it’s best to change all passwords and locks in case the burglar was able to obtain this information while inside.

Finally, check for any electronic breaches. If the intruder had access to your laptops or mobile devices, the data security of your company, employees or clients may be compromised.

3. Communicate internally

It’s important to let your colleagues know when a break-in has occurred. While the vulnerability of a break-in can make for a tense environment, following these communication tips will help ease your employees’ initial concern:

  1. Reassure them that there is a plan in place to recover and prevent future incidents.
  2. Share an updated security plan with them so they know what they can do to keep the workplace safe. Everyone has a role to play in office security.
  3. Create a safe environment in which people can turn in any evidence they may find or provide any further information that can help the authorities. If any keys or notepads with security codes have been misplaced, it’s important that people feel they can come forward without the fear of being blamed, punished or fired. Collecting this information also enables you to strengthen your security program and reduce the chances of a repeat incident.

4. Determine what was stolen

Make a detailed list of what was stolen or damaged and how much it would cost to replace it. Include the serial number and who it belonged to. You’ll need this list for the incident report.

If any devices have been stolen, do not erase the data immediately. Wait until you’ve spoken to the police as they may be able to use the IP address to track down the perpetrators.

5. Investigate what went wrong

Put together and review any camera footage taken at the time of the incident. If you have it, start off with any footage taken at the point of entry. If you were able to capture the criminal entering the building try to zoom in on and take note of their appearance, identifying marks and clothing.

In the event that you did not have a camera placed at the point of entry, review any street side or external footage for suspicious or unusual activity. Some things to look for include: a suspicious person(s) loitering outside the building or an unknown vehicle parked outside the building during the time of the incident. Keep in mind the 5 W’s of reporting suspicious activity:

  • What is happening?
  • Who is doing it?
  • Where is it taking place?
  • When did you observe it?
  • Why is it suspicious? (Is the suspicious person trying to conceal their identity? Is the suspicious vehicle parked illegally or for an extended period of time?)

Next, retrieve all access control records for that time period. Consider the following:

Did anyone enter the building with a key card or code during the incident?

If so, it will be necessary to check if the employee or staff member in question has misplaced their key card and find out when and where this may have happened.  

Who was the last person to leave the building before the incident? Who was the first person to enter the building after the incident?

It’s important to follow up with these people and find out if they noticed anything unusual or any suspicious person(s) in the vicinity.  

Were there any visitors or temporary employees/staff in the building this week?

It’s common for more experienced thieves to scout the premises ahead of time. They may have even visited your building on one or several occasions before committing the crime.  

Gathering this information will help you piece together the details, providing a clearer picture of what happened.

6. File an incident report

This is often necessary in order to file an insurance claim later. Try to help the police make the report as detailed as possible. If you followed steps 2-5 you’ll already have most of the information they’ll require. 

Here are some commonly asked questions and tips to help you prepare detailed information in advance:

What happened?

Have a brief overview prepared of the sequence of events that occured from the time when you found out about the break-in (i.e. I received a notification that an alarm had gone off in the building at 4 am. I called the police and drove to the building. etc.)

How did the perpetrator enter the building?

Here’s where your security footage will come in handy. If you were able to capture the incident they will be able to review the information more thoroughly. If not, here is where you can share any photos taken of the entry point or information about access codes/keys used during the incident.

Who was the last person to leave the building before the incident and what time did they leave?

The police will want to establish a timeline for the incident. Here you can share with them the access control records, names and statements taken in step 5.

Describe the items that were stolen.

Include the list you made during step 4 of all the lost or damaged items, their value, cost to replace them and serial numbers.

Have you noticed any suspicious activity or person(s) in the vicinity of your building lately?

This is where your investigation into the external camera footage will come in handy. Be sure to report any suspicious activity using the 5 W’s.

7. Call your insurance company

Begin the process of filing your insurance claim. Start by contacting your security company to find out what is covered. Then collect receipts for all of the stolen and damaged items so you can submit them with your insurance claim.

8. Re-evaluate security processes

The final step (and one of the most important) is to reflect on what vulnerability was exploited and what can be done to prevent a future incident. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself:

  • Which access point did the intruder use and how can you make it more secure?
  • Was your camera coverage sufficient?
  • How could your access control policies be improved?

Aside from these 8 steps, having experienced security guard services is one of the best ways to prevent future break-ins. Hiring a service with specific expertise in your industry, whether in healthcare, tech or storage and manufacturing facilities, will ensure you get an advanced assessment of the risks and gaps in your current strategy.

Bannerman takes the research and guesswork out of security by helping you buy and manage the right type of security services for your organization.
Mike Ginty
Vice President of Security at Bannerman

Mike Ginty has  dedicated  his  career  to  safety  and security. He started out as a Special Agent and Officer in the  US  Air  Force,  investigating  felony  level  crimes  and matters  of  national  security,  as  well  as  providing anti-terrorism support to force protection overseas.  After leaving the military, he spent time as a contractor with the Department of Homeland Security before beginning his career in corporate security.

Mike  is  a  veteran  of  both  the  security  and  technology industry. He managed Security Operations at Apple, and was  the  founding  member  of  the  safety  and  security team  at  Uber  and  helped  keep  employees,  riders  and drivers  safe  while  the  company  scaled  from  60  to  280 cities worldwide. Mike then became the Head of Safety, Security, and Facilities at AltSchool, where he rolled out a whole new vision of keeping kids safe in and out of the classroom.

Mike  possesses  a  keen  ability  to  evaluate  risk  and implement  right-sized  security  solutions.  He  prides himself  on  a  technology  forward  approach  to  security and  as  such  has  distinguished  himself  as  a  security industry  leader  in  Silicon  Valley. He  has  advised numerous  properties,  organizations,  and  companies,  as well  as  private  organizations  and  family  offices.  He regularly publishes and speaks on topics regarding safety and security.

Mike  as  has  a  BA  from  Boston  College,  and  MA  in National  Security  from  the  Naval  Postgraduate  School, and an MBA from the University of San Francisco.