Boarding up doesn’t work. It’s ugly, ineffective and can actually harm the local community. That’s the opinion of Oaksure, a company that specialises in vacant property security. They warn that “Boarding up a property is expensive, causes damage and leaves a building vacant and vulnerable to a range of security threats.”
But boarding up windows isn’t just an unsightly, useless protection method: it can also be damaging to your business. Here’s why you should never just leave your vacant property boarded up, and what cost-effective security solutions are available for your business instead.
Boarded up windows provide ineffective security
In a 2014 study, Roderick W. Jones and William Alex Pridemore found that when a city’s vacancy rate increased by one percent, the burglary rate rose by 20%. Vacant property is an easy target for vandals, trespassers and other unauthorised visitors, often resulting in costly repairs and much frustration. It’s hardly surprising that a great deal of businesses decide to board up their property before vacating it, however this simply does not provide the necessary security.
Others argue that to be effective, it must be implemented with other security measures such as security guards or property guardians, and that boarding up is just a short term solution. According to a report for the IAAI/USFA Abandoned Building Project, “while a building may remain boarded up for some time, in the long term it must be reused/rehabilitated or demolished to truly mitigate the problem.”
Boarding up property often seems like the cheaper option, but if it leads to a break in, or expensive vandalism, you put your business at risk of tremendous costs. According to the BIFM guide to vacant property management, “Wooden boarding is far less effective than firmly-fixed metal security screens (to board up doors and windows) and can be a fire hazard.” They gave the 2011 London riots as an example, where many people boarded up the windows of vacant offices only for them to see the boards and the property go up in flames.
However, they almost always lead to property damage, which can affect the value of the property. Metal screens cost an average of £18,750 per year. That’s because boards and metal screens are often rented, not bought.
Boarding up your windows can even encourage crime
While short-term boarding up is associated with protection from storms or in case of a broken window, long-term boarding up is most often associated with unoccupied buildings, decay, poverty and crime.
When would-be burglars, vandals and squatters see boarded up windows, they don’t see stringent security measures, they see a building that has been left abandoned. This fits into a sociological theory on the causes of crime, called ‘Broken Windows theory’. This model of policing focuses on the importance of disorder (e.g:, broken, or boarded-up, windows) in generating and sustaining more serious crime.
According to George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson, the inventors of the theory, if a vacant office window has been broken and left unmended, passers-by observing it will conclude that no one cares or no one is in charge. In time, more windows will be broken, thus creating a harmful downward spiral. Eventually the passers-by will not only assume that the building is abandoned, but the entire street too.
This idea of neglect and ruin can spread like wildfire in the areas surrounding a single vacant property. Boarded-up windows portray the same image of abandonment as broken windows, with the added benefit for criminals that they can now move about completely unseen inside the building.
What are the alternatives?
It is easy to say what doesn’t work, but are there security measures businesses can take which are as cost-effective as they are effective? Let’s assess some of those options:
Signs alluding to an installed alarm system or CCTV surveillance can help deter vandals and petty mischief-makers, but an actual CCTV system will help to identify and apprehend them.
CCTV is the second most commonly used form of security for abandoned buildings, according to the BIFM guide to vacant property management. Carter Security supply security cameras and CCTV systems to businesses, and state that CCTV is “an extremely flexible option for boosting security in the office because they both send and receive data through the internet.” By having data stored offsite (or through cloud technology), you can be certain that your footage will be as safe as your vacant building.
If, for whatever reason you can’t install CCTV on your vacant property, see if any neighbouring properties have there own, these could be invaluable to the security of your property.
Security Guards & Property Guardians
Although CCTV systems and security alarms are a far superior method of maintaining your vacant property than boarding up, the best way of securing an abandoned building is by not abandoning it. That’s why security guards and property guardians are second to none. VPS Group specialise in security guards, and argue that “investing in ‘eyes and ears’ on site is a tried, tested and proven security method.”
However, hiring a security guard is an expense most small businesses simply can’t afford. Oaksure Property Protection note that hiring a property guardian is most secure, cost-effective form of property protection, adding that “security guards cost around £12 per hour per guard, which works out at £8,000 per month plus VAT.”
By comparison, live-in property guardians can cost as little as £200 per month, a fair cheaper alternative to security guards, and a more pleasant and effective solution than boarding up.