Most common types of business burglaries and how to avoid them

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Burglaries from business premises are, unfortunately, very common. This could be for a variety of reasons:

  • Cash is sometimes likely to be left on-site.
  • If cash is left on-site, criminals can be fairly confident it’s either in the till or safe, meaning they know where to look. The situation is likely to be different for residential burglaries.
  • Businesses are generally unattended outside of business hours, and therefore burglars have a reduced risk of being interrupted.
  • Stealing stock can be profitable and is often untraceable (phones, laptops, shoes, and so on).

According to official Home Office findings (read the full 61-page report here if you’d like), by far the most common sector targeted by criminals was the wholesale and retail sector. It’s worth noting that these have recently been somewhat impaired by internal reviews and COVID-19.

Across 2018, the Home Office recorded a staggering 27,400 incidents per 1,000 premises, with an upward trend in repeat offenders hitting the same place several times. Most of these were thefts by customers. Pages 37 and 38 also detail how burglary – both attempted and successful – is often thought to link to organised (premeditated) crime.

In short, it’s well worth being careful, especially as we come out of lockdown and try to head back to some form of ‘normal’.

In this article, we’ll be looking at some of the most common types of business burglary, how they might affect you and how to prevent them from happening again.

Types of business burglary

West Yorkshire Police has one of the clearest websites available for explaining crime and crime prevention. They split different types of business burglary into three – ‘Smash and Grab’, ‘Opportunistic’ and ‘Sophisticated’. These three categories are handy when comparing the different ways people could break into your business.

Basically, these refer to how much premeditation and planning went into the burglary. In general (though not every time), the more it was thought about in advance, the more serious the consequences.


Opportunistic burglaries show significant evidence of not having been planned at all. Although the person in question will probably still do their best to sneak around your business and avoid setting off the alarm, they won’t know where anything is and will usually have to do a lot of rummaging around.

If the burglary was opportunistic, a business doesn’t usually lose very much – not more than can be carried away by hand. This might be something like smashing a shop window to grab something from the display or sneaking in through a door left open.

The most at-risk premises have low stock value and fewer security measures, such as corner shops.

Smash and Grab

Smash and Grab burglaries are more premeditated but tend to be carried out by less technically skilled individuals.

Examples could include smashing a door down or ramming a truck through a shop window (known as ram-raiding). If the property has an alarm fitted, the intruders won’t take any steps to avoid setting it off. Instead, they’ll move as quickly as possible and escape long before the security company or police arrive.

This technique is particularly dangerous, especially if vehicles are involved, and poses a substantial risk to members of the public, too. Due to the speed and destructiveness of the burglary, it often causes a lot of secondary damage.


More sophisticated-type burglaries might be how you imagine heist movies. The infamous Hatton Garden jewellery theft in 2015 would be one such example. These criminals are more likely to target high-value businesses with plans that sometimes take months or even years to formulate.

Sophisticated-type burglars use several techniques to throw the business owner, police and security company off. For example, they might have a specialist technician to disable the alarm, mute any exterior alarm bells or smash strobe lights and cameras. A common technique these criminals often use is to manually trigger the alarm several times in the weeks leading up to the burglary. Because of this, the authorities and owners are often slower to react when they actually break in.

Impacts of a business burglary

Of course, business burglaries can impact anyone, and often in different ways, including:

  • Loss of stock
  • Loss of cash
  • Theft of personal or customer information
  • Damages to repair and pay for or insurance claims to sort out
  • The business may have to close for a short time
  • Negative impact on mental health, feeling of security and vulnerability


How to prevent a business burglary

Now that we’ve explained some of the slightly scary ways people can get into your business, let’s brighten the mood by considering ways to prevent them.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to 100% prevent anyone from getting in. Rather, you can focus on making it more hassle than it’s worth or putting burglars off in other ways. The more complex your security systems, the more discouraged would-be criminals will be from attempting to break in.

Below, you’ll find a few ideas as to how you can go about this.

  • Physically solid doors and locks – these are more difficult to break through and less likely to be left ajar. A reinforced door and sophisticated locking system would be especially effective at keeping opportunistic burglars out. Anti-snap locks are a good idea in this regard.
  • Grilles – installing protective measures such as grilles at the front and rear make breaking in significantly more difficult.
  • Laminated glass – windows are a common entry point. Laminated glass is much harder to smash.
  • Business safes – safes are often required for insurance purposes. Although it’s still possible to break into a safe, it’s tricky and usually takes time that a burglar doesn’t have. Keeping cash in a safe is more secure than in the till.
  • ID cards – for larger sites, such as big factories or warehouses, it’s hard to know who’s on your property at any given time. Access restriction techniques, such as ID cards and security checkpoints can help with this.
  • Alarms – burglar alarm systems are watched by a central hub of security personnel 24/7. As soon as they’re triggered, someone will be out to your business as soon as they can. The primary purpose of a burglar alarm is to scare the criminal away before they can take anything or do any damage, although sometimes they’ll be caught in the act. The alarm also functions as a danger warning to any occupants in the building or nearby.
  • CCTV – security cameras function to effectively scare burglars off or limit the angles at which they approach the property. It usually reveals information going back a few days or weeks, as criminals often scope buildings out in advance. Of course, it’s most helpful in identifying people if it gets a clear shot of their face.
  • Staff training – ensure any staff in the building know how to activate the alarm and use all the security equipment and provisions. Also, encourage them to keep an eye out for any suspicious behaviour and implement an effective system for reporting these incidents.

At Grays Locksmiths, we’re an MLA-approved Master Locksmith with experience in keeping Nottingham businesses safe.

Whether it’s anti-snap locks, CCTV installation, alarm systems, steel security doors, grilles, shutters, access control systems, safe installation or security lighting, we can help you out. We also offer emergency callout and certain repair services.

If you’d like to get in touch with us regarding commercial security options, feel free to call us on 0115 942 2315 or head in-store at 245 Ilkeston Road, Nottingham, NG7 3FX.