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Protecting Car Dealerships in a High Crime Environment and Security Services



Protecting car dealerships in the Chicagoland area has been a challenge in the past few years as vehicle thefts, carjackings and robberies have sky rocketed. The above youtube video illustrates these brazen thefts committed by multiple offenders. As the threat landscape and method of operations used by criminals quickly evolves, security professionals, law enforcement, business owners and insurance agencies need to evolve just as quickly to prevent these high valued vehicle thefts. In this security blog post will discuss a few countermeasures and solutions which can help mitigate these vehicle thefts. We will begin with an outside in approach utilizing the concept of concentric rings of protection (layered security).


Outer Perimeter: Securing your property lines outer perimeter. More an more we're seeing car dealerships fencing in their property line. This is good because it clearly separates public property and access from private property. Additionally, it will deter and slow up any criminals attempting to gain access to the dealerships grounds or impede criminals while attempting to flee the dealerships property. There are many types of fencing that can be used for this, from heavy duty fencing to cheaper and lighter fencing options. The stronger the gauge of steel and stronger anchor points are the best options. Many fencing options are aesthetically pleasing and they can match the landscape of the property.


To assist with the outer perimeter and driveway, it is recommended to have a heavy duty gate or industrial strength gate. Luxury vehicles or in fact any vehicle will be unable to crash through these gates without severely damaging the vehicle. The gates are anchored in place so strong that even a semi truck would have a hard time penetrating the car lot.


An additional options can be crash rated wedge barriers or hydraulic bollards. The bollards are spaced close enough to each other that a vehicle can not get in between them to exit. These devices are invulnerable and can also be used at the garage door locations or show room door locations to prevent vehicles from exiting during a theft. During business hours these devices are in the down position and vehicles can move freely.


Perimeter Fencing:






Vehicle Crash Fence:





Anti Ram / Reinforced Gates:





Bollards / Wedges: - Protecting Garage Doors




Intrusion Detection System (Exterior):

This is a good security option as well. Should your perimeter fencing and gate barriers not keep out intruders, a good Intrusion Detection System can pick up movement in the parking lot open spaces. A Passive Infrared (PIR) sensor detects changes in infrared (heat) radiation. The PIR works by accumulating thermal energy from the surrounding area, which is then processed to produce an output signal proportional to the rate of thermal energy being received at its sensing face. This in turn triggers an alarm on the exterior foot print of your dealership, which then your alarm service provider can notify the police sooner, as opposed to your alarm going off when the criminals enter your dealership. The naked eye cannot see the PIR beam. Multiple sensors should be utilized to have overlapping coverage.





Video Surveillance Systems:

Video surveillance systems are normally used at car dealerships as part of their security operations. New systems should have the capability of motion activation meaning during non business hours, motion from a human being or vehicle could trigger an alarm from the video security system. It functions just like the PIR sensors we discussed previously. This in turn will trigger an intrusion alarm prior to the offenders attempting to make entry into the dealership building. The sooner an exterior alarm is triggered, the quicker the appropriate response will be. Additional video security system capabilities should consist of a Network Video Recorder, cameras of at least 4K resolution that can at least visually identify vehicles, license plates, colors and people. Security camera positioning should cover ingress and egress routes, entry points and open lot space. The security cameras should be of overlapping coverage as to not have any dead spots in the car dealership lots. These same principles should be applied to the interior use of security video surveillance systems. On a final note, any high value items or your most valuable vehicles should have some type of video coverage on them.





Inner Perimeter / Structure Intrusion Detection System:

Most car dealerships have commercial burglar alarms protecting their dealerships as well. Current systems are hardwired and or a combination of cellular connection. Your current systems can be monitored and activated from a phone application, key fob or web browser and from your service providers dispatch center. The alarms should consist of magnetic sensors on doors, glass breakage sensors near windows, in conjunction with passive infrared (PIR) sensors located throughout the open space in the dealership. These are also known as motion sensors. These sensors should have overlapping coverage. Lastly, overhead doors should be alarmed with shock sensors because offenders will tend to break the overhead doors windows or try to forcefully lift it open. You will also see criminals attempting to forcefully pry them open from the ground. Security alarm shock sensors will be triggered upon any of these breaking and entering actions being taken.


Panic Buttons:

The commercial alarm systems can also be integrated with an in house panic button which functions with the alarm system. These panic buttons can be placed strategically throughout the dealership. This is important because just recently in Chicago, criminals broke into a car dealership in the early morning hours and confronted the cleaning crew and detained them in an office. The criminals then began stealing cars. A few hours after the incident the cleaning crew then notified the police. With strategically placed panic buttons or mobile panic key fobs can help prevent brazen robberies of car dealerships or any other business.


Alarm Panel:


Magnetic Sensors: (Doors)



Glass Breakage Sensor:

Shock Sensor:



Motion Sensor: (PIR)




Panic Buttons: (Integrated with the Intrusion Detection System)


Vehicle Key Control:

Key control is of the utmost importance when securing any facility. For large structures we always advocated strict key control or access control for the facility. For car dealerships it's equally important because the critical assets of the dealership are the cars itself. It's imperative to have strict accountability of the vehicle's keys and the proper storage of them during non business hours. We recommend vehicle keys be accounted for every day prior to closing and that they be stored in containers, the containers are then stored in a safe / vault similar to that of a bank or jewelry store. The safe should be alarmed, and integrated into the commercial security alarm system for the car dealership. We understand that it would be time consuming to get all the keys for vehicles on the lot, secure them in containers, then secure them in a safe. However, jewelry stores do this every day at closing time. They account for and store hundreds of pieces of jewelry on a daily basis and secure them in a security rated safe / vault. This will prevent vehicle thefts, especially thefts in which 10-20 cars are stolen at on time. See the pictures below on the vault and how to store the containers.


Security Vault:


Security Key Containers and Cart:




Security Services:

Another option for securing your car dealership is hiring private security services. This could be a valuable move and visible security guards can prove to be a good deterrent. Prior to any large scale crime or attack, criminals conduct pre incident surveillance of their target by taking pictures and photos looking for vulnerabilities to exploit. Should they see security while conducting their pre operational surveillance they know they may encounter some resistance while committing the crime, the security agent may be armed or an off duty police officer. Ensure your security service provider has a well trained security force with an emphasis on use of force, de-escalation tactics and techniques, control tactics, firearm and less lethal weapons proficiency.



In Closing:

These are a few safe security solutions to securing car dealerships and preventing large scale thefts of vehicles. The goal here is to trigger an alarm and detection from the perimeter / exterior of the property. This way the police, security and a key holder are notified prior to entry in the car dealership where the keys are located.


Is it practical and affordable to implement these security measures? Yes and no. Should the values of the vehicles stolen, damaged vehicles, building damage, tarnished company brand and reputation exceed the cost of implementing these security upgrades, then it may be worth looking into implementing some or all of these security upgrades. Additionally, at Secure Options Consulting, we provide advisory services to determine which security countermeasures and solutions work best for your organization. We conduct this by providing a comprehensive Physical Security Assessment, Risk Analysis / Risk Management processes in conjunction with a short and long term security strategy.





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