Tire dealers aren’t the number one target for theft or other crimes, but that’s not to say an accident can’t happen. Secure your premises and have a solid plan of action to prevent even potential crimes from happening.
Tate Boys Tire & Service shops place importance on customer service. The business is well respected, the locations are clean and well-designed, the service is excellent, and the dealership was named a Tire Review Top Shop Award Finalist in 2011.
The Bartlesville shop keeps all its used tires in organized piles behind its facility, and monitors them with security cameras. Because the piles are not gated off, Carl Wood, manager of the shop, says locals have stolen some of the used tires before. Maybe two, three or four tires had been taken from the collection at most – nothing out of the ordinary.
But red flags popped up in May when Wood noticed that rows of used tires had “disappeared” in a single night. Then another night. And then it happened on a third and fourth night.
Wood pulled up security video clips of the used tire piles to see what had been going on. The footage shows one man had visited the store at least four times late at night, driving away with piles of used tires on each occasion – 50 overall, which cost the shop about $1,500.
The video footage was too blurry to identify the thief or his vehicle license plate, so Wood upgraded the four-year-old camera system for a new one from Glenn Security Systems Inc., a local company. With the new camera system, Wood was able to read the license plate number and give local police a clear picture of the man, who remarkably returned a fifth time.
Tire dealerships aren’t exactly crime magnets like convenience stores or gas stations, but simply looking at this case, it’s obvious they are not invincible. Owners might feel secure, but no tire dealership should ever disregard security prevention. Lives and community trust are at stake.
Wood said he learned valuable lessons from experiencing theft only weeks ago. Immediately after the thief was identified and caught, he gated and locked off the used tire area to up the security at his shop.
“Things like that deter theft or at least make things more troublesome for thieves to get tires out,” he says. “Having cameras at least was great – it helped us catch the perpetrator.”
Making Security Important
Richard Stolpe, a self-employed consultant in security and former CSK Auto security trainer, says stores that experience a crime once are more likely to experience crime again. “The best predictor of being robbed is if you were robbed before,” Stolpe says.
He explains that often the people creating problems at your shop are no strangers: They are likely people you know – returning customers, friends or even colleagues. And, in most cases, the robberies and other crimes are planned.
Stolpe says that smaller businesses tend to make better targets for crime. Tire dealerships fit this category, with most only having eight to 15 employees on average.
“The smaller and fewer people involved at a business, the easier it is to make them a target,” Stolpe says.
While crimes are less common in the industry, when they do happen, things get messy. From late night tire theft to armed robberies, tire dealers need to be prepared and have measures in place in case of emergency.
Security cameras and alarm systems are a first step in improving safety at a business. Stolpe says that while a security camera alone will not deter theft, it helps in identifying the criminal.
Eric Pohlman, owner of Eric’s Auto Service in Hamilton, Ohio, learned firsthand the value of having a strong security camera on the premises after experiencing a serious break-in on Sept. 11, 2004. A man broke through the glass door of his shop and stole money from the cash drawer. The incident was costly for Pohlman, but he managed to catch the criminal because police were able to identify him on one of the clips from the shop’s video cameras.
“We got a good picture of him, he was caught by police and convicted,” he says. “But keep in mind, police told me video footage does not hold up in the court of law 100%. The videos do not give you 100% proof that you caught the person because of clarity issues. So, on top of having security cameras for your store, find a good lawyer.”
Having cameras and alarms help with more than simply deterring or solving cases of theft. It also helps owners and management work with angry customers.
Dale Donovan, president of Donovan’s Auto & Tire Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, said he placed 16 cameras around his shop, inside and out. Although no major crimes have happened at Donovan’s store, there have been plenty of upset customers. In those situations, Donovan says his cameras help to diffuse problems.
In one case, a woman walked into Donovan’s Auto & Tire Center to complain about a valuable item she claimed had been stolen from her car – and that someone at Donovan’s did the deed.
“Ma’am, that item was not stolen,” Donovan calmly told her. “You put it on my countertop. I have a video of it – would you like to see it?”
“Oh,” she responded. “You have a video of it?”
Donovan nodded, “Yes. You took it out of your car, set it on the counter and forgot to take it with you. I have it right here in my office.”
Donovan showed her the video, gave her the item and went on with the day. Problem averted.
“It just baffles me to think some tire dealerships or auto repair shops don’t have cameras,” he says. “They literally save you in some situations.”
Planning for the Worst
Immediately after a shop experiences any sort of crime, Stolpe says it needs to make sure there is a plan in place to deal with the situation in the future. Dealers lose credibility with some courts if, after a crime occurs, it does not demonstrate formal changes to decrease the likelihood of further crime.
The whole thing seems entirely counterintuitive, but, “it limits the liability of the shop,” he says.
At least once a year, Stolpe recommends training each employee on safety procedures for the business – and having those procedures documented in writing. Employees should not be paranoid about it, but should at least be educated on how to handle any problems that arise. He says such plans should include daily procedures when opening and closing shop, along with what can be done during a crime or harmful situation.
Hank Feldman, president of Performance Plus Tires in Long Beach, Calif., says he hosts a safety meeting once a month with employees to make sure both the employees and facilities are secure. Additionally, he says, every 60 to 90 days the company has an outside firm check to make sure security systems are up to par.
Pohlman says safety has also been a hot topic at his shop. Pohlman belongs to Pro-Service, a 20-group for auto shops. He said the group has been looking into safety, fire and employee policies to diffuse any threatening or dangerous situation at the shop.
Pohlman adds that his human resource team is developing new policies for his staff, which he hoped to have in place by summer.