Here we talk to Jon Harwood from Clearway Services who explains the security threats to vacant properties and reveals that owners are taking unnecessary risks. Jon is Business Development Director at Clearway Services, experts in the provision of security solutions for empty, void and vacant commercial and residential properties and sites. The company offers a package of empty property security services including steel doors, sitex doors, steel screens, sitex screening, perforated steel sheet, monitored void/vacant property alarms, concrete blocks and a range of supporting vacant property management services.
What are your predictions for the next twelve months in the security sector?
Technology already plays a big part in security. We have already seen a significant evolution in wireless technology and more portable forms of power. Combined with web integration and a multitude of mobile devices everything from access control to intruder detection is at the security managers fingertips.
We have taken advantage of many of these developments to implement keyless solutions. It is surprising how reliant on effective management and time consuming keys are especially around vacant property. The number of times access has become an issue for clients having viewings or contractors turning up to complete works and being unable to gain access; whether it’s a case of the wrong keys, forgetting keys or having the keys in an office in London and a site in Manchester. We believe that this is an issue that is growing as the number of vacant properties under management increases.
What are the specific threats to vacant properties? Why are they such a target?
Vacant property is an easy target for vandals, those seeking fixtures and fittings (copper and lead) and a suitable site to tip waste – regrettably many are easy to identify. Worse still, they can be attractive to youngsters who hang around site unaware of the risks and potentially fatal consequences from hazards on site.
There is also an assumption that because a site is located on a busy estate or built up area that unauthorised activity will be easily spotted, however, it would be difficult to distinguish between someone loading up van full of copper and a contractor attending to carry out maintenance work.
Many owners still take unnecessary risks with vacant property in an effort to save money. This is often proved to be a false economy that results in a loss or avoidable damage. Replacement costs for electrics and plumbing far exceed the loss in materials.
Does it often take a break-in for landlords to realise that their empty premises are a target?
Yes. Unfortunately it still takes the reality of a break-in and the subsequent costs to highlight the risk to a site. The theft of what amounts in scrap value to tens of pounds worth of electrical wiring can result in replacement costs running to many thousands. Typically the cost of a loss is significantly underestimated whilst the cost of vacant property security overestimated (we are always getting surprised reactions to the low cost of our services).
What types of security solutions/systems are used to protect an empty property?
Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best... regular inspections provide essential details about the site condition and the integrity of the property security. Maintaining the appearance of the vacant property and making it looked operational if possible can also prevent it becoming a target for intruders. This works well when combined with vacant property alarms which are low profile and provide essential monitoring of activity at the property whilst also acting as a deterrent.
Where the property is at high risk more pragmatic solutions are available. Wire fencing, hoarding and concrete barriers are effective at protecting the perimeter whilst steel security screens and doors ensure that vulnerable and accessible openings are secure.
What is your security pet hate?
Leaving security decisions till something happens. This almost inevitably results in extra costs and a feeling by the client that they are not getting best value. Planning and implementing security in a timely fashion almost always results in a better solution and significant cost savings over the term of the project.