There are many tools and techniques available in the market for protecting vehicles on your lot from damage and theft. But there is no tool for guarding against complacency, which it is easy to fall into after implementing a security plan and focusing on the intense competition you face.
Fencing a lot would certainly control access, but could also be unsightly and uninviting to prospective customers. For remote areas not accessed by customers, a 6-foot chain link fence topped with barbed wire is recommended. Install locked gates at vehicle entrances to prevent cars being driven off after hours.
For areas visible to the public, 3-6” diameter posts 4-10m feet apart with chain between them can be decorative and less imposing, while closing off or channeling traffic through control points. Vandals, of course, still have access to the lot, as well as criminal accomplices seeking to create a distraction.
Use landscaping and natural terrain – ditches and embankments – to enclose storage lots and display areas, if aesthetics are a concern. You’ll want to avoid providing cover for thieves in your landscape design, but having a design is still better than no protection at all, and it will make it more difficult to remove vehicles from the lot.
While fencing is largely optional, lighting a lot is the minimum that must be done to secure it; no other technique can work without good lighting. Make sure the entire lot is well-lit, and install some lights or alarms triggered by motion detectors to alert dealer staff or a security service to an intruder.
Assuming good lighting is in place, video surveillance is the next step up, both in cost and effectiveness. Video capabilities are rapidly coming down in cost, as anyone with a smart phone knows, but there are key questions you need to ask before you end up disappointed in your video investment.
First, how long does your video provider maintain records? Even with the best in technological surveillance, it may still take days or weeks to learn that a sophisticated thief has made off with a car. You don’t want to learn then that your video system preserves recordings for only 24 hours.
Secondly, when you need it most, will your video footage be of high enough quality to assist law enforcement and hold up in court, if necessary? Will it have the necessary audio content to support the investigation and prosecution of a theft?
Of course, video is only as good as the location of the cameras, which raises the prospect of aerial drones with cameras and other types of sensors. Drones are rapidly being incorporated into property management, where they can not only observe locations but monitor them for excessive heat, cold, moisture, and other potential hazards.
Drone use is still exotic and costly for most vehicle dealerships, as someone must monitor the flight of a drone in a manner not required of stationary cameras. However, some large dealers may find drones to be a practical way to patrol remote lots where vehicles are stored.
Technological monitoring has eroded the cost-effectiveness of security guards for controlling loss to vehicle inventory, as guards are costly, the type of thefts they could prevent are rare, and their value as sources of evidence is not as great as that provided by electronic records.
Nonetheless, security guards may be useful in making a show of safety in certain areas, and for operations that trigger angry reactions, such as the towing of vehicles parked in restricted spaces. Also, guard patrols and a stepped-up police presence are often welcome following civil disturbances or other disruptions in a community.
Guard dogs are another traditional form of lot security, but it’s hard to imagine using them today except in highly unusual situations. Whatever protection they provide would be outweighed by the liability they present, and dogs cannot provide information to police or testimony in court.