Robberies continue to plague the cannabis industry, and with little short-term hope of the Safe Banking Act passing in the U.S. Senate, the abundance of cash in these operations will keep them as targets for criminals.
Some states and localities are taking action. For instance, Washington state passed Senate Bill 5927, which enhances penalties for cannabis robberies, and has contracted with a third-party consulting firm to offer cannabis retailers a free security assessment. These actions are encouraging, but criminals looking for cash still see the cannabis market as a lucrative target.
So what are cannabis businesses to do? Visible deterrents can discourage some criminals, but unfortunately, not all criminals will be deterred. For those set on robbery or burglary — and this group generally includes the most dangerous and violent offenders — businesses also need to deploy devices that mitigate an attack and provide information to help law enforcement apprehend the offenders and recover the stolen cash and assets.
Here’s an overview of the most common deterrents and mitigation/apprehension technologies.
– You need a security plan: Figuring out what security technology to use is a big task, and security requirements differ from state to state. The best way to maximize your security investment and to avoid penalties, fines, lawsuits and other hazards is to develop a security plan with a reliable provider. Proper plans not only identify the best technology for a given location, but they also provide emergency response plans for your staff and should ensure proper training so staff know the procedures to follow in any given situation. And remember that a security plan isn’t ever “done.” As crime trends change, and as security technology evolves, it’s important to regularly revisit the plan to ensure it’s up to date.
– Security requires a “layered” approach: There is no single solution to stopping crimes. Different crimes, different criminals, different locations all impact the effectiveness of security solutions. But regardless of any of these factors, the best approach is the layered or “Swiss cheese” method: criminals may overcome one or several different security layers, but at some point, they’ll hit one they can’t beat. Each layer increases the likelihood of stopping the crime.
– Think scalable: Whether you operate a single dispensary, many dispensaries, a grow facility or transport operation, it’s beneficial to allow for growth and expansion by choosing technology that is adaptable, easily expandable and integrated. This strategy avoids having to replace a device that’s not compatible with other devices or needing to frequently update tech that’s not keeping up with new developments.
– Leverage what you have: If you invest in tech, make sure you are using it correctly and to its fullest potential. This is another way that a robust security plan is helpful. When looking at security solution providers, experience matters. Choose those that offer support and guidance and can help you with best practices to deploy what you’ve invested in. The right tech won’t work if it’s not deployed correctly or if staff aren’t properly trained on how to use it.
– Security doesn’t stop at the door: While public acceptance of cannabis is growing, there is still a social stigma surrounding these businesses — and the very public displays of violent crimes against them aren’t helping. By deploying comprehensive security measures, cannabis businesses can be seen by the public and by law enforcement in a positive light — seeking to be part of the solution, caring about the local community and helping stop violent criminals.
— Lisa Moughan
– Cameras: With the advent of increasingly sophisticated surveillance analytics, the effectiveness of cameras continues to grow. Seeing a camera may deter some criminals, but perpetrators often wear masks, hoodies and other clothing to obscure their appearance However, cameras can still be helpful if placed correctly. For instance, cameras should not give just an overhead view — they should capture faces, hands and cash/cannabis transactions. This will help deter internal theft as well as robberies. In addition, cameras placed outside can warn store staff to an impending crime and capture vehicle models and license plates.
– Access control: Areas for cannabis product storage, cash storage, secured storage and IT/security equipment, as well as employee entrances and shipping and receiving docks, should all be secured with access control. And different areas should have different access — staff members should only have access to the areas they genuinely need to visit to do their job. In the event a crime occurs, the data collected by these systems can provide forensic analysis following a theft or robbery and can help identify if there was inside collusion.
– Security devices: Numerous other security devices can augment a location’s safety. Glass-break detection, motion detection, sirens/strobes and lighting all help deter crime and mitigate crimes in progress. The last thing criminals want is to draw attention to what they are doing — the right lighting makes it hard for them to hide; a siren or strobe can notify law enforcement of the crime and create eyewitnesses.
– Security guards: Having a security guard on-site, armed or not, can serve as a tangible warning to some criminals to stay away. For customers and staff, they provide the perception of greater protection and assurance that should a violent situation occur, it can be quickly handled. If a crime does occur, guards can be reliable eyewitnesses to help with apprehension and arrest.
Mitigation and Apprehension
– Cash boxes and safes: Some cannabis dispensaries use cash boxes at the register, where all $50 and $100 bills are deposited and stay protected from robbery. At the end of the night, the boxes are opened, the cash is collected and counted in the back room and placed in the deposit safe.
The right safe is also critical. Many cannabis businesses rely on gun safes, believing they provide adequate security, but they do not. A TL-rated safe is absolutely the best choice because it is specifically designed to withstand a sustained attack.
– GPS tracking: When deployed in a security application, a GPS tracking device can deliver criminals directly into the hands of law enforcement. Hidden with cash and assets, GPS allows staff to remain safe and gets the criminals out of the dispensary or away from a transport vehicle. The perpetrators believe they have succeeded in their crime and leave. Staff can then secure the premises, preventing the criminals from returning and protecting themselves and customers, while awaiting the arrival of police. Police use the tracking data to safely locate, pursue and apprehend the criminals and recover the stolen assets.
We all know there’s a problem with security in the cannabis industry, and the need for solutions has never been greater. Working with the right security companies to develop a comprehensive plan and deploying layered security technology offers the best chance to protect your business, staff, customers and assets.