How small businesses can protect against theft

A hand turning keys in a lock

Erin Delahunty

Posted April 14, 2023

Small businesses are sometimes a target for opportunistic thieves. Here's how to help protect your small business from theft.

While every enterprise is different, the principles of small business security are universal, whether it’s a clothing store, hair salon or IT consultancy. Taking proactive security measures can help reduce incidences of theft and burglary, as such crime is often opportunistic. 

It’s also wise for small businesses to have adequate insurance cover in place.

Neighbourhood Watch Victoria – a community-based crime prevention program that aims to improve the quality of life within a neighbourhood by minimising preventable crime and offers advice to businesses – recommends a multi-faceted approach when it comes to security.

How to help prevent theft at your small business

1. Protect the premises

There’s more to making a small business safe and secure than locking the front door at the end of the trading day. There are lots of things owners can do to protect their assets. 

  • Locks: Installing locks on all doors and windows can deter potential thieves and help prevent unauthorised access, protecting a small business from theft and other security threats.

  • Remove ladders: Removing ladders and other means of access to higher levels or roofs can help prevent entry and deter criminals.

  • Manage keys: Regularly re-keying locks means lost or stolen keys no longer work. It can significantly reduce the chance of theft and improve the overall security of the business. It’s also wise to keep track of which third parties, such as cleaners, have copies of keys.

  • Update codes: Updating any codes used to access premises adds another layer of security. It ensures only current staff and contractors can enter, helping reduce the danger of theft and also providing a meaningful record of who entered and exited the building and at what times.


Man entering code on keypad lock

Keeping any code locks updated means only current staff and contractors can gain access to your property. Photo: Getty. 

2. Deter criminals

There’s a myriad of simple ways to discourage criminals, from adopting technological fixes to installing physical barriers.

  • Sensor lights: Installing sensor lights can help by illuminating the premises when someone approaches, deterring potential thieves. It can also alert nearby authorities or security personnel of any suspicious activity, increasing the chances of catching any perpetrators.

  • Good sight lines: Having good sight lines can help protect a small business by making it easier for employees and security staff to monitor the premises and identify potential issues.

  • Alarms: Having an alarm immediately alerts authorities and security of a potential breach, increasing the chances of catching the culprit. Visible alarms can also act as a deterrent to would-be thieves, as they know the chance of being caught is higher.

  • Timers: Having timers on lights creates the impression that someone is on the premises even when the business is closed, deterring would-be thieves. It can also help reduce energy costs by automatically turning lights on and off at set times, rather than having them run 24/7.

  • Bollards: Installing bollards can help stop unwanted vehicles from accessing buildings and potentially damaging or stealing valuable assets. It’s also a deterrent.

3. Reduce the reward

Taking steps to reduce what thieves can actually get their hands on once they break in is the third step.

  • Remove valuables: Removing valuables from plain sight reduces the temptation for would-be thieves to break in. 

  • Signage: Putting up signs stating that no valuables or cash are kept on the premise also cuts down the motivation.


Two women business owners talking while looking at something on a laptop.

Forming a community with other business owners can help keep you informed and more secure. Photo: Getty.

4. Be part of the community 

Bambi Gordon, CEO of Neighbourhood Watch Victoria, said small businesses working together can be a powerful crime-fighting tool. 

“Being part of the community sounds simple, but it’s actually a great strategy for small businesses to employ,” she said. 

“Some of the things Neighbourhood Watch Victoria recommends are reaching out to your business neighbours in person or over social media like a private Facebook group or WhatsApp chat, to keep each other informed of what’s happening. 

“Straightforward things such as reporting suspicious behaviour at your own small business or those nearby is also important. The Neighbourhood Watch model has shown the value of simply watching out for each other – and it applies equally to small businesses,” Gordon said.


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The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit As a referrer, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product issued by Insurance Australia Ltd, ABN 11 000 016 722, AFS Licence No. 227681.