Suspicious Activity in Your Lobby

How to Handle Suspicious Customers and Other Activity In Your Lobby

We’ve all found ourselves in uncomfortable situations at work, from office politics to the endless power struggle over the thermostat. But what happens when you’re confronted with suspicious activity coming from a guest or customer?

You want to believe the best in everyone, and you also assume that every person who enters your lobby is there with good intentions. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Some people with bad intentions enter through your doors, and then what happens? Do you confront them? Do you call security? Do you observe?

How do you even know that they’re suspicious?

On one hand, you have to trust your gut because it’s there for a reason. Your unease may come from a legitimate cause for concern. Perhaps you’re picking up on subtle red flags that could lead to immediate danger for you and others. However, on the other hand, you also must be careful to avoid acting on unconscious biases that unfairly stereotype others.

It can be difficult to know how to navigate these situations. However, it’s important that you have a plan in place for when (not if) you find yourself in an uncomfortable scenario.

Let’s discuss how to prepare and what to do.

What Classifies as Suspicious Behavior

First, let’s discuss how to recognize suspicious behavior.

While we can’t describe every possible behavior that can elicit suspicion, we can highlight the more common worrisome behaviors:

  • Loitering for a lengthy amount of time
  • Constantly looking around (most people find something to hold their attention as they wait, such as tv, magazine, or phone)
  • Creating a huge and unusual distraction by one party in their team
  • Coming into the lobby a few minutes before your office closes or right after it opens
  • Clenching their fists
  • Crossing their arms
  • Arguing with someone in the office or on the phone
  • Wearing inappropriate clothing
  • Hiding in the corner or behind an object
  • Concealing their face in some way, such as looking down pretending to tie shoes or looking for something in a bag whenever someone walks by
  • General nervousness
  • Acting aggressively
  • Displaying erratic behavior
  • Making threats
  • Constantly staring at you, your staff, or someone else in your office lobby
  • Having a flushed appearance
  • Taking a threatening stance or posture
  • Talking to themselves
  • Trying to force entry into your building
  • Taking photos of areas that aren’t particularly remarkable
  • Sketching floor plans of your building
  • Pacing back and forth repeatedly
  • Appearing after an unusual noise (such as pounding, glass breaking, or gunshots)
  • Entering or exiting from a secondary door, not the main entrance/exit
  • Repeatedly entering and exiting the building
  • Not checking in with your front office
  • Leaving packages or bags and walking away for a long time or exiting the building
  • Asking detailed questions about your security protocol or where your cameras are located

There are several types of crimes, from theft to terrorism to vandalism to kidnapping. But there’s usually a sign that something is about to happen. So be vigilant and if you spot any of the above signs, then plan your next steps accordingly.

Also remember that you’re not profiling a person. Instead, you’re observing a behavior. A person cannot be defined as suspicious based on their race, gender, age, or nationality.

How to Prepare for Suspicious Activity in Your Lobby

Let’s discuss how to prepare for suspicious activity, and then how to handle it if it happens.

Create a Security Plan

Before creating a security plan, you must first assess your risk factors.

  • What are your physical risks?
  • What are your most vulnerable assets?
  • Do you need to protect personnel, supplies, technology, company data, etc.?
  • Will you keep cash on premises? If so, how much, and where will you store it?
  • Finally, what are the best ways to keep your assets safe? Will you create a safe zone for your office staff? If not, where will your employees shelter in case of an emergency?

With those questions in your mind, create a customized security plan, if you haven’t already done so.

Create an Access Control Policy

Your security plan should indicate which areas in your building are open to the public and which need to be restricted. Also, you should outline which employees can access those restricted areas. Do you have employee only areas? How will you prevent others from accessing those areas? Will you restrict access through digital locks?

Also consider adding wayfinding signs throughout your office to prevent guests from accidentally getting lost. Wayfinding signs are especially helpful if your guests will be making their own way from the lobby to another part of your office. Signage can deter misunderstandings which can happen when a guest gets lost.

Keep a Log of Who’s In Your Office

It’s so important to know who’s in your office at all times. You have the responsibility to protect your physical office, your employees, and your guests.

One of the best ways to do that is with The Receptionist.

The Receptionist is a cloud-based visitor management system with a robust set of features that allow you to control access while also learning more about who’s in your office at all times.

Here are some of the top security benefits you’ll gain by using The Receptionist:

  • A cloud-based visitor log so you know who’s in your office
  • Searchable visitor reports
  • The ability to capture images of your guests
  • Access to an up-to-date emergency evacuation list
  • Eliminate paper guest logs (which protects your visitors’ privacy)

In addition to all of the above benefits, The Receptionist also allows your front desk staff more freedom to observe their surroundings.

Learn more about The Receptionist features here or join the product tour below. 





12-Minute Product Tour
Hosted by  Michael Ashford, Tom Foster
About this tour Want to see The Receptionist for iPad in action and begin to imagine ways a visitor management system can make you a front office superstar?! Let our team guide you through some of the most popular features and functionality The Receptionist for iPad has to offer in this interactive product tour. What you’ll learn During this Receptionist for iPad product tour, you’ll see: * how our visitor management system helps you handle different types of check-ins * why button-based workflows give you ultimate configurability * the efficiencies your staff can gain from taking your visit log and visitor notifications digital Sign up now!



Install a Security Camera

Another tool you need in your lobby is a security camera. You can use a security camera to record who’s coming in and out of your facility. Remember to keep the footage on file for a while. Often, criminals “case” an area and then return at a later time to commit a crime. By having footage on file, you may find out more information about the suspect.

You can also observe suspicious behavior on the camera, if you feel uncomfortable doing so in person.

Security cameras also help you monitor the most sensitive areas in your office. Also, invest in more than one camera and have those cameras obviously placed as an easy visual deterrent to criminal activity.

Install Alarms

One of the best ways to respond to suspicious behavior, especially one that’s escalated, is by activating a silent alarm. This silent alarm will notify the relevant parties, such as your security staff or the local police, without tipping off the suspicious person.

Be sure to test your silent alarms periodically (at least twice a year).

What Should You Do When You Spot a Suspicious Person

When you do spot a suspicious person in or around your office, trust your instincts over everything. Be observant and remain calm, surround yourself with others, alert a security team or other personnel, and have a plan of action while keeping an exit to a safe location in mind. 

Trust Your Gut: If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts and take appropriate action to protect yourself and others. Your intuition can often guide you to make the right decisions in uncertain situations.

Be Observant: It’s important that you and everyone on your staff take an observant posture at the office, especially if your office is open to the public. It’s important that you and your staff are on the lookout for any suspicious activity, and know what to do next.

Remain Calm: If you observe suspicious behavior, remind yourself to stay calm and don’t over-react. It’s crucial to keep a calm head during these scary situations. That assures that you don’t panic and forget your plan.

Alert Your Security Team: As they say, when you see something, say something. If you have a security team in your office building, it’s always a good idea to alert them of suspicious behavior as soon as you feel uncomfortable. Don’t let it escalate to an unmanageable state before you reach out.

Have a Plan of Escape: In a particularly tense situation, be sure that your staff knows where to go and what they should be doing in the event of a particularly serious situation.

Approach the Suspicious Person With Good Intentions: If it comes to it, and you must approach the person, do so with good intention while maintaining a healthy amount of vigilance and skepticism. The good thing is, approaching a suspicious person and offering your help can give you the power in the situation. First, talking with a person who’s acting suspiciously can immediately clear up any misunderstandings that you may have. One of two options is true: They are actually behaving in an alarming way, or you may have mis-read the situation. Either way, the confrontation will provide clarity on next steps. Remain calm and polite with your tone and facial expression.

The above tips will help you handle suspicious activity at your office. 

In addition to empowering your staff, one of the best ways to manage your lobby is by implementing a visitor management system like The Receptionist. With our visitor management system, all guests can check in right away. And you can require visual identification for each guest so you can put a face to a name.

Ready to upgrade your security ASAP? Start your 14-day free trial

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