How to reduce theft at your charity

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Maximising security on your premises, using deterrents such as SmartWater and ensuring computer systems are secure can all prevent a theft occuring, says Wendy Cotton, a charity insurance expert at Markel

Improving security around vulnerable areas such as doors and windows is important
Improving security around vulnerable areas such as doors and windows is important

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Unfortunately, claims resulting from theft are extremely common in the UK. According to the Charity Commission's own data, theft makes up 13 per cent of all reports of serious incidents made by trustees, behind abuse and fraud. Theft is a problem that can affect charities of all sizes and, putting the appropriate security measures in place, coupled with the correct insurance coverage is crucial when it comes to minimising the risks to your organisation.

Although you cannot control everything, you can control the steps you take to prevent a theft taking place. Here are some pointers to help you reduce the chances of a theft occurring.


Firstly, your premises should undergo a thorough security assessment with a suitably-qualified individual – many police forces offer these free of charge, or you could contact a crime reduction charity. They will be able to advise you on areas that need attention and run through some questions with you to help ensure you're doing all you can to minimise theft.


You will need to pay particular attention to vulnerable areas such as doors and windows. Do they all have suitable locks? You could consider fitting additional security features, such as metal grids over skylights. You should also make sure that there are secure store rooms or containers for attractive items, and ensure that these rooms are kept locked when not in use. Check the locks are to a suitable British Standard if this is a requirement of your insurance policy.

Alarms and CCTV

Your intruder alarm and response status should be subject to regular maintenance to ensure it is in good working order, and installations of further PIR detectors are recommended for wider coverage.

You need to ensure that your CCTV is properly maintained and there is nothing obstructing it from being effective – for example, overgrown trees. You should also make sure that your charity's building is well-illuminated when not in use, to adequately support the CCTV coverage. Take care to avoid recording over any previous footage and have an organised archive system in place.

SmartWater technology

This company provides a wide range of forensic tagging products to provide traceability. This year, as a result of the SmartWater system, three men were jailed for stealing a cashbox in Greater Manchester and smashing it open with a sledgehammer; the forensic taggant having contaminated the notes with purple ink when it was forcibly opened. SmartWater reports that it has a 100 per cent conviction rate, which acts as a significant deterrent to would-be thieves. If your charity deals with a lot of cash, or has expensive equipment that could be stolen, you may want to consider adopting it.

Computers and other devices

Ensure are all devices are protected with a suitable password and make sure this is changed regularly, especially when an employee or volunteer leaves the organisation. A regular back-up procedure should also be put in place to avoid any data loss in the event of computer theft. You should also consider installing tracking or remote wiping applications to mobile devices if your charity holds sensitive data about its service users.

What to do if the worst happens

If you do fall victim to theft, you should report it promptly to the police and your insurer, providing as much information as possible, including your policy number, loss location, an idea of the level of damage and copies of documentation. You may also need to report the theft to the Charity Commission - for further details, visit their website.

Wendy Cotton is a charity insurance expert

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