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There are four types of boundaries, each offering a varying degree of security. I have defined these as Lost, Psychological, Controlling and Secure
Lost boundaries are those that you can just about make out along, for example, a shopping street. Look carefully at the paving along some streets and you might pick out a series of small metal studs about a metre apart, which have been placed there to define the boundary between the public footway and the private forecourt of the shop. Lost boundaries have no security value, but they are used by local authorities to enforce trading laws, for example, when a shop owner displays goods for sale outside the shop. These boundaries are also taken into consideration when determining the opening direction of a door. There’s more about this on my page dealing with recessed doorways.
Psychological boundaries are often marked by low level landscaping features, low timber rails; low wall or fence; rumble strips across roads and changes in the colour or texture of a road or footway surface. These will:
- Visually define the difference in ownership of space
- Signal to someone crossing the boundary that different behavioural rules may apply, because someone else owns the land beyond the boundary
Controlling boundaries are by far the most common form of boundary and are marked by low to moderately high fences and walls (1m – 2.4m) or in some cases hedging. Controlling boundaries are the ones you’ll find around a house’s rear garden. Some of these boundary fences and walls will include some form of injurious or unstable fence topping which encumber the owner with certain responsibilities for health and safety. These boundaries will:
- Define the difference between public and private space
- Physically control the movement of people and vehicles
- Deter casual intrusion by opportunist thieves looking to steal externally stored materials and plant, scrap, vehicle batteries, fuel and CATs etc.
- Make it difficult to remove stolen property from the site
- Assist site management by restricting casual intrusion
- Direct staff and visitors towards a formal controlled or uncontrolled site entrance
- Keep unauthorised persons off a potentially dangerous site in order to comply with Heath and Safety directives, providing there is a secured gate
- Provide a place to display warning signs, such as ‘CCTV is in operation on these premises’, ‘No Trespassing’ etc.
Secure boundaries are real barriers* that usually consist of high fences or walls (2.4m+) designed to physically prevent climbing and penetration. The majority of these boundary fences and walls will include some form of injurious or unstable fence topping which encumber the owner with certain responsibilities for health and safety. These types of boundaries will:
- Defining the difference between public and private space
- Physically control the movement of people and vehicles
- Deter opportunist thieves and delay the entry and exit of the more determined criminal
- Give an early indication of an intrusion if fitted with an intruder detection system
- Make it very difficult to remove stolen property from the site
- Greatly assist site management by restricting casual intrusion
- Direct staff and visitors towards a formal controlled site entrance
- Keep unauthorised persons off a potentially dangerous site in order to comply with Heath and Safety directives
- Provide a place to display warning signs, such as ‘CCTV is in operation on these premises’, ‘No Trespassing’ and signs warning about the specific dangers of climbing and injury etc.
*Defensive hedging, such as Hawthorn, can be used, but this form of barrier is normally reserved for agricultural use, particularly for the control of farmers’ livestock.
You’ve probably realised by now that all perimeter walls and fences can be climbed with some requiring more time and effort than others. You’ll know what risks you have and can probably already see what type of boundary treatment your business has or should have.
Even in the case of ‘open-planned’ commercial sites, fences and walls can often be or are used to protect the rears and sides of business units.
Sometimes there are disadvantages with visually solid boundary treatments such as brick or concrete walls, because these might provide cover to a thief who has scaled a wall and is now attempting to force his way into the building or steal from the yard now unseen from the road
Generally, the advantages of fences and walls outweigh the disadvantages and so if your premises does have a fence or wall then you should keep it and maintain it to a high standard. However, you might want to think about the cover a wall might provide to an intruder should he get into the yard and whether it might be an advantage to replace the wall with a transparent fence. Likewise, your existing fence or wall might be in a poor state of repair in which case you’ll want to replace it.
Natural surveillance, which may be achieved by replacing a wall with a fence, can be a powerful deterrent to crime, but if your building is in the middle of nowhere and there is little chance of an intrusion being seen by passersby, security patrols or the police, then this advantage will be greatly minimised.
There are many fence types available, which can be reviewed here (click, then scroll down to Metal fences and their security attributes), but it is recommended that you consider one that has been certificated to security standard LPS 1175. Your insurers and fence supplier should be able to advise you further about the security rating you should select.
Injurious fence and gate toppings
Various injurious wall, fence and gate toppings are available, but you must be conversant with and abide by the law about their use. Read this page for further information about the law and planning permission. Here are the main Acts of Parliament that deal with fencing issues, but you’ll also need to consider your responsibilities in respect to health and safety.
- Section 164 Highways Act 1980 (Injurious toppings)
- Section 154 Highways Act 1980 (Overhanging the highway)
- Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957
- Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984
Injurious toppings can include barbed wire, razor tape, spikes etc (broken glass isn’t particularly effective) and such toppings must be clearly visible from both sides of a fence or wall. Do not be tempted to hide injurious items on the blind side of a wall or fence, such as carpet gripper, or set man-traps as you will fall foul of the law if someone gets injured.
In essence the law requires you to safeguard all people on your premises at any time. This includes people who might be trespassing. You can reduce your liability by ensuring that you abide by the law and follow guidelines in respect to the height of any injurious topping. Forewarning people using plenty of clear signs warning of the specific danger of climbing (e.g ‘Razor tape’ Danger of serious injury and falling if climbed’) will also be necessary.
Security electric fences
Security electric fences may be appropriate for some businesses, but you should seek advice from a fence supplier who specialises in this field and is a member of either the Electric Fence Association based in Warwickshire or the European Fencing Industry Association based in Abergavenny. Members of these associations will be able to advise you about important British and European standards relating to the installation and safety of electric security fences.
Gates within your perimeter boundary should match the height of the fence or wall and be as ‘un-climbable’ as the fence. It may not be possible to achieve this due to the design of the existing gate, but if you intend to replace it bear this factor in mind.
Should be appropriately locked to the level required by your insurers who will probably quote BS EN 12320: 2001 Building hardware. Padlocks and padlock fittings. Requirements and test methods. You can find out more about the various security grades for padlocks on this page
This is a very specialist area due to Health and Safety issues and you should seek advice from a company who is a member of GateSafe
Graffiti is regarded by most as a form of criminal damage and can be defined as ‘any inscription, marking, writing, painting or drawing, illicitly scratched, scribbled, drawn, cut, carved, posted, pasted sprayed or painted on any surface’. Note the word 'illicitly'.
The surface or canvas upon which the graffiti is applied is normally vertical and in public view, because those who apply their tags or ‘works of art’ (known as pieces – short for masterpieces) want them to be seen. Graffiti is applied to stationary objects such as walls, fences, trees, street furniture and street cabinets and also to moving objects, such as railway carriages, buses and commercial vehicles. Graffiti is often found on commercial building and boundary walls that are close to the rail network or other open routes such as canal towpaths, both of which can be used overnight with little chance of the perpetrator being seen.
The general rule is to remove graffiti as soon as it is discovered, because if left it will encourage more, especially tags. If your building is prone to graffiti attack then you might want to consider anti-graffiti coatings for the walls, which will make future removal much easier and quicker.
Full information about graffiti and what you can do about it can be found on this page