By Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal
Businesses are bracing for more crimes committed by both external and internal perpetrators in a rough economy.
The worry is that poor market conditions will result in more burglaries, and company layoffs could increase cases of embezzlement, theft and workplace violence by disgruntled workers.
“A lot of our clients are ramping up security,” said Scott Stern, CEO of security firm Global Services Inc. “They want to protect their assets. They want to make sure their people are safe.”
More businesses are hiring security guards and installing video cameras to monitor both visitors and employees, said Stern, whose Phoenix company provides security and investigative services.
Arizona’s unemployment rate was 5.6 percent in August, up from 3.7 percent in August 2007, according to the state Department of Commerce.
An August report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors found high gasoline prices and other economic troubles were resulting in more crimes.
The mayors’ report found 39 percent of the cities surveyed are seeing links between economic woes and an increase in robberies; 31 percent see links with more theft; 29 percent with more burglaries; and 29 percent with more metal theft.
Theft of copper wiring and other parts from construction sites, vacant homes and businesses continues to be a problem, despite recent state laws increasing the penalties for such crimes.
“Copper theft is now rampant in the Valley, where fountains are being stolen from buildings, pipes are being ripped out from homes and buildings under construction, catalytic converters are being cut out from under cars in broad daylight, and even manhole covers are being taken from city streets,” said Tim Lawless, Arizona president of the National Association of Industrial & Office Properties.
“While recent state legislation has helped, more teeth is needed from a deterrent and law enforcement standpoint,” he said. “As long as the economy stays down, we can expect copper theft to stay on the increase and to affect almost anyone.”
Business and real estate groups are meeting with state lawmakers regarding how to beef up state laws against copper theft.
Stern expects the problem to get worse as the holiday shopping season collides with mounting consumer economic stress. He said basic security steps such as having a security guard or receptionist posted at business entry points, better tracking of visitors to office buildings and work sites, and some well-placed security cameras can cut crime substantially.