Recently there was a meeting of minds between police and industry at the Shepparton RSL, following the robbery of a local dealership which saw thieves drive away with over $400,000 worth of Toyota vehicles – along with keys and tools for good measure – over two consecutive weekend heists.
Fast becoming something of an epidemic in dealership land, the matter of robberies in regional Victoria was originally brought to the agenda forefront by VACC member, John Mathieson of Mathieson Motors. The forum was consequently organised by VACC Industry Policy Advisor, Michael McKenna, who facilitated the sit down and discussions between four high-ranking police officers and 12 Shepparton-based franchised dealers.
Police believe that a social issue is at the heart of recent heists, linking the widespread use of crystal methamphetamine in regional areas with local crime. The Shepparton vehicle robberies fitting the bill, being both brazen and calculated – based on the sheer volume taken and culprits using tools to remove sensors and cladding.
The recent spate of dealership robberies, in Shepparton and across regional areas, could have wide reaching consequences – far beyond those immediately felt by the targeted dealerships. Insurance companies are now demanding higher levels of security from dealers, a local Mazda dealer reporting that in the week following the Shepparton haul, he invested $30,000 worth in new security equipment.
There is a very real concern among those in the industry that insurance will either get incredibly expensive – unaffordable – or that dealers will face the same fate as the auto recycler, and insurance will be completely revoked. Such a move that would leave dealers unable to operate.
In addition to talks around the concerns and wider consequences of vehicle robberies, police representatives outlined some immediate and proactive steps that could be taken, on the part of dealerships, to help safeguard their businesses:
- Change security protocols every six months, eliminating the risk of staff (past and present) unintentionally comprising dealership security
- Install GPS tracking devices in all stock vehicles
- Install CCTV systems
- Link CCTV with a mobile application, to enable remote access and authority alerts
- Invest in quality lighting, ideally linked to motion sensors, in a bid to hinder thieves and enhance CCTV footage
- Keep all vehicle keys secure in a locked box, inside a locked safe, within a locked room
- Install an alarm system
- Consider keeping guard dogs on the premises
- Be objective, review current business security measures and identify any potential weaknesses
- Be aware that the service zones of a business are often not as secure as the main dealership area. Criminals have been known to gain access via a service centre and then use unsecured tools to break into other areas
- Keep a record of which employees have direct access to the key safe
- Maintain written protocols that detail which employees can access keys and introduce a key sign out/return policy
- Replace door keys with swipe cards, so that access can be easily disabled if/when necessary
- Install bollards to protect vulnerable glass and doors.
In closing, police representatives emphasised the benefit of having layers of security within a dealership, and how different measures worked together to strengthen a site’s protection against potential break-ins. With security systems becoming more affordable all the time, police implored business owners to view such measures as investments, rather than expenses. Taking proactive and preventative security measures could mean invaluable savings – stock, time and heartache in the long run.