Business owners,

The Department of Commerce partnered with the Philadelphia Police Department to share steps that you can take to protect your business and employees.

In this guide, you will find:

  • Crime prevention tips
  • Crime response tips (if burglary, robbery, or flash theft occurs)
  • Trauma-informed care resources
  • Further guidance to secure your business
  • Flyer with crime prevention and response tips.

Crime prevention tips

To protect your business and employees.

Checklist when closing and opening your business

  • Before opening, check all locks, doors, and windows for signs of tampering.
  • Lock your doors as soon as the business closes.
  • If possible, close your business with more than one employee present and leave at the end of the night in pairs. In the absence of an additional employee, try partnering up with a neighboring business owner to support each other in closing safely.
  • Leave your cash register open and empty at night so that burglars know not to steal or break into it for cash.
  • Bring moveable flowerpots and other objects that could be used to break through windows  inside when the business is closed.
  • Do not count money in view of the street, customers or where outsiders can see in.

It is recommended to keep lights on overnight in spaces visible from the outside so that the public and police can easily observe suspicious activity inside.

Keep windows clear and shatter-resistant

  • Keep windows free of signs, ads, and large coverings so that customers and passersby can see inside and discourage criminal activity. Added visibility also helps police and firefighters respond to emergencies more quickly.
  • See-through security grills and shatter-resistant window films are recommended. Laminates can add greater security without blocking visibility.

Secure your shop

  • Re-key locks whenever an employee is dismissed.
  • Side and rear doors should be made of solid wood or steel with sturdy door frames and hinges on the inside of the doorframe.
  • Double-cylinder deadbolts on rear and side doors make it difficult for burglars to come and go from back exits hidden from street view.
  • Secure dumpsters, ladders and other outside objects that could be used to gain access into your building or roof.

Protect business exterior

  • Business name and street address should be clearly marked in the front and rear of your building. Keep signage uncovered and well maintained.
  • Businesses should be well lit in the front and rear.

Grant funds are available to businesses located on many neighborhood commercial corridors for facade lighting and signage through the Storefront Improvement Program.

Surveillance cameras

Install and maintain a high-quality security camera system that fully covers the inside and outside of your business.  Keep recording equipment in a secure location.  The Business Security Camera Program led by the Department of Commerce can help you cover eligible external surveillance camera costs up to $3,000 for a single commercial property.

  • If security cameras are already installed, make sure they are in good working order.
  • Ensure cameras have ample storage and that employees know how to download or share images with police.
  • Make sure cameras cover all access points, such as windows, doors, and the front and rear of the business.

Exterior cameras can be registered with the Philadelphia Police Department through the Safecam Program. Any suspicious activity should be shared with the Philadelphia Police Department and tips can be forwarded to or calls can be made to (215) 686-TIPS (8477).

Customer service

  • Give a friendly greeting and make eye contact with everyone who enters your shop.
  • Know when people enter and leave by installing a bell on your entrance.
  • Establish a code word or phrase among all employees that can be used if someone is acting suspiciously.  Have a system in place to alert a neighboring business or discreetly call police.  If working alone, leave a TV or radio on in a backroom to make it seem like others are working “in back”.

Keep cash at a minimum

  • Limit the amount of cash on site by accepting card and smartphone payments.
  • Make frequent bank deposits, however, do not set a pattern to avoid being tracked.
  • If larger sums of cash must remain on site, make frequent cash drops out of public view into a timed safe, located in a secure and monitored location.
  • Some businesses install signs notifying the public of these practices.

Limit the amount of displayed items

  • Limit the amount of items displayed, especially by entrances. Thieves target retailers where expensive and small items can be easily taken.
  • Use sturdy display cases, cable or other techniques to secure expensive merchandises.
  • Keep excess inventory in locked storage rooms.

Some stores limit the number of unaccompanied minors in their business at one time, typically during school hours.  Positioning employees near the store entrance and near expensive merchandise are recommended. Hire employees that have community-minded connections to the neighborhood.

Crime response tips

To protect your business and employees.

If robbery or flash theft occurs:

Train your employees to follow these steps.

Remain calm

  • Remain calm, cooperate, and do not resist. Your well-being and the safety of your employees and customers is more important than any lost property.
  • Avoid looking at the suspect in the eye or making sudden movements.

Remember the details

  • Concentrate on remembering the suspect’s appearance and any distinguishable features and write down detailed notes as soon as possible.
  • If it’s safe to do so, observe how the suspect leaves the area and what direction they went in.  Did they get into a car, get on a bus or flee on foot?

Lock your doors and call 911

  • Lock the doors and call 911 immediately when safe to do so, after the incident.
  • Report if the suspect showed a weapon or implied that they had one.
  • Ask any witnesses for their contact information if prefer to leave before police arrive.
  • Do not touch anything because you could disturb potential evidence.
  • Provide police with information about any losses, surveillance footage, and description of the suspect that may aid in the investigation.

List losses and secure your premises

  • Secure any damaged entry points or vulnerable areas and re-key locks.
  • Make a list of any damage and losses. Provide the information to the police and your insurance company. To aid in the recovery of your property, include serial numbers, photos, or camera surveillance footage if available.

If burglarized

Train employees to follow this first step:

Do not enter the building

  • Call 911 immediately. Do not enter the building without a police officer. The burglar may still be inside or may have caused damage that could cause injury.
  • Do not touch anything, especially non-emergency items, because you could disturb potential evidence.

Then follow the steps above similar to the theft and robbery response tips. Alert neighborhood businesses and residents for community awareness.

Trauma-informed care

If you or your employees have experienced crime-related trauma or emotional distress and are seeking mental health services, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or (215) 685-6440. This hotline operates 24/7 and has behavioral health specialists ready to respond to those in need of immediate help.

Below are a few additional resources:

Further guidance to secure your business

These safety tips are provided to the public in partnership with the Philadelphia Police Department. For more information about keeping your business safe and to request a security assessment, contact your local Philadelphia Police District: Identify your district here.

We encourage you to sign up for the City’s Ready Philadelphia alerts by texting ReadyPhila to 888-777 and following City social media accounts. Business Services Managers staff can connect you with available resources and with community-based organizations near you.

You can also learn how to make a community-minded public safety plan, which can help minimize potential business risks, center the vitality of community care, increase trauma-informed approaches, create a workplace of accountability, and retain employees.