Criminal activity increases during difficult economic times and this has been borne out by our experience since 2008. Security issues and criminal activity have always been a major concern for wholesalers, and wholesaling is one of the most targeted sectors by criminals because the nature of the business is very visible.
Unfortunately this targeting has not been fully recognised by the police, and wholesalers have had to invest heavily in security measures to protect premises and staff. Within Parfetts over the last three years we have had two major areas of capital expenditure each year - security measures and energy efficiency.
The criminal fraternity target not only our stock and premises for theft, but are also very active on our car parks targeting and threatening customers opportunistically. A new and serious threat has been the very active targeting of wholesalers for business identity theft.
Traditionally wholesalers have countered these threats individually while all admitting frustration with the apparent inability and unwillingness of the police to take our problems seriously.
“Analysing patterns has led to a significant number of arrests”
Two years ago we decided, through the FWD, to take steps to address the issue. Instrumental to this was the experience of Palmer & Harvey in managing such issues internally.
After careful discussion it was resolved to employ a security analyst and coordinate reports of criminal activity from wholesalers. Initially the reports were a little patchy but the enthusiasm of the analyst and the realisation there was value in the scheme meant it quickly grew. This was helped by roadshows presenting to wholesalers about the scheme.
Initial reports were a mixture of car park incidents (still the biggest problem in numeric terms) and attempted burglaries.
But our ability to analyse patterns and map occurrences has led to a significant number of arrests and convictions, and the instant alerts to all wholesalers of problems has also allowed prevention of incidents.
The initiative has also allowed us to more successfully target activities that cross police force boundaries, not least with excellent co-operation from the motorway police.
In addition to these activities have been added information and updates on identity theft, which have proved invaluable in combating these issues and have even involved contact with overseas government agencies.
Crime (and its prevention) will always be a major issue for wholesalers and we remain frustrated by some aspects of policing. However, this co-operation is a real model showing how with goodwill on all sides our industry can work together to tackle a major problem area.
Steve Parfett is chairman of AG Parfett & Sons