Since 2019, the world has experienced a lot of unexpected and unprecedented changes. For corporate security professionals, shifting trends in criminal activity are becoming a persistent and ongoing concern. This is especially top of mind for retailers as holiday shoppers scurry for last minute gifts and storefronts are challenged by violence and increased crime.

From where I sit as the Executive Director of the Ontic Center of Protective Intelligence, I’ve heard a growing number of chief security officers raising concerns about the operational impact of increased criminal activity in the last year. Even though crime appears to be increasing today, the 1960s and 1970s were much worse statistically speaking, when violent protests and extremist bombings were the norm.  

The reasons behind these shifting patterns of criminal activity are complicated and different in many areas. The uncertainty behind the situation is compounded as many state and local governments are having financial trouble, straining resources and decreasing public safety budgets. Many police departments simply do not have the necessary resources to investigate or stop property offenses, especially in the face of rising violent incidents that must take priority. The burden of protecting business operations has shifted onto corporate security and loss prevention teams. Meanwhile, businesses face gaps in their ability to attract and retain high-quality employees, especially in customer-facing industries, straining most organizations’ first line of defense. 

Crime Rates Are Up

FBI statistics from 2019-2021 show an increase in violent criminal activities, even during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns. Initial statistics from the first two quarters of 2022 indicate the situation may be stabilizing, but there does not appear to be a substantial decrease in many areas.

Business Responses

There are several steps business leaders can take to protect their personnel and operations as problems with crime continue.

1. Monitoring and Analysis

Businesses can start by examining how and where the problem is impacting their operations, paying special attention to new and emerging trends. When looking at specific locations, consider the types of problems that are occurring and the timeframe of data available. Examine the types of physical and technical security countermeasures present in your business and operations to determine if these countermeasures effectively counter the current threat, or if enhancements are needed. Be sure your assessment includes all areas employees typically access, including parking and common areas of buildings.   

2. Invest in Physical Security Measures, Infrastructure and Technology

Depending on each location’s threat assessment, deploying new physical security measures, technology enhancements, or security personnel to deter criminal behavior may be advisable. Policy changes may also keep your personnel safer. For example, in June 2022, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said the company was rethinking its open bathroom policy due to safety issues from non-customers using their restrooms, adding that the company would harden its stores to make their employees and companies safer. 

In addition to physical security countermeasures, modern technology platforms can offer real-time data and information feeds to help teams monitor crimes that can impact operations, tracking those changes over time to ensure emerging threats are properly identified and countered. 

3. Executive and Public Engagement

It’s still relatively rare to hear leaders of public companies comment on crime and other social issues. However, more corporate officers are openly discussing these problems to promote crime-prevention policies. While a corporate security team is not typically in the best position to conduct this sort of engagement, the team can provide valuable insight to the C-suite and other leaders about the problems they’re encountering to raise awareness of the situation and encourage effective solutions. 

4. Collaboration with Police, Local Government, and Industry Organizations

Some companies targeted by criminals cooperate directly with local police to fight crime, ideally establishing a relationship with local authorities before a problem arises. Corporate security teams should also ensure they’re actively engaged with public-private organizations that monitor criminal behavior within their industries, including Infragard and the U.S. national Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs), to share best practices and learn how others in your industry are handling the threat. Other public-private industry-specific working groups – including issues like cargo security and container transportation – can offer security teams a forum for information sharing and analysis to stay ahead of the threat.  

It’s Not All Bad News

Despite the uncertainty about why crime rates are shifting and how the situation will evolve, many companies are addressing these problems head-on, making adjustments to help ensure their ability to operate effectively and grow moving forward.

While the shifting crime trends continue to evolve, effective corporate security teams can use this time to increase the time and energy they spend implementing tools and strategies to help protect their people, assets and operations now can help ensure they’re ready to handle the uncertainty.

Looking for more ways to lead your corporate security teams through the dynamic threat landscape? Take a look at our whitepaper Navigating Corporate Security Through Times of Chaos to see how you can best protect your organization.

Ready to unify your data and tools for a holistic view of threats?