Fires were also set at two other nearby businesses, AquaRama Pools and Spas, and the Pro Elegance beauty salon, but Driver’s suffered the most damage. The building was destroyed — with some customer vehicles inside — and was later demolished.
Ruben Ilagan and his son, Alvin, opened the auto shop four years ago.
“We were just devastated,” Ilagan said. “We just tried to do everything we could in order to adapt. The building was destroyed, so we couldn’t do anything. We just had to wait.”
Ronald and Susan Moore of Roswell own the property, which the Ilagans rent.
Ilagan estimated he lost between $40,000 and $50,000 in income while the shop was closed.
“I couldn’t do anything,” he said. “We just kept waiting and waiting for them to tell us things were set.”
Now, Ilagan said his business is more prepared.
“We had some insurance on the building, but we poured everything into our business early on. You do what you have to do to build your business,” he said. “We were a little underinsured. This time, we will be better prepared and have everything accounted for.”
Brent C. Brown, chairman and CEO of security firm Chesley Brown International Inc. in Smyrna, said that strategy is smart.
“Many crimes are in fact random. However, the bottom line you can always do is reduce risk and likelihood by taking proper security measures,” Brown said. “You have to set everything else aside for the moment and focus on security. Most crimes are crimes of opportunity. Therefore, if you make your business less vulnerable and/or less attractive to a criminal, then you are in effect reducing the opportunity.”
Brown said businesses should have strong doors and good locks. Alarms and fencing also help.
“If your business looks less than secure than it is, then it is,” he said.
Before Wednesday’s grand re-opening, Ilagan said he was anxious “to get back into the swing of things.”
“We’ve had a lot of customers call and ask when we were going to be ready for business again. That says a lot about the community we are in,” he said.
Claude Leroy Brown of Marietta is charged with setting the fires at Driver’s Automotive and the other businesses but has not yet gone to trial.
SEVEN WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS NOW
* Keep it clean: If you have trash or graffiti on or near your business, it affects your security.
* Light it up: Ever hear of the phrase “Under the cover of darkness”? It’s real and criminals love the dark. Don’t turn off all your lights when you leave. Would you stop and get gas at dimly lit gas station? From a criminal’s perspective, if it dark, they will check it out.
* Don’t fake it: Avoid using fake cameras or warning signs. This strategy carries a huge liability risk and creates a false sense of security.
* Do your homework: Protection is an investment of both your time and money. Understand that you might have to spend some money to safeguard your assets. Ask your local police department or hire an expert to do a business security audit.
* Know what’s going on: Talk with the police about what’s going on in your area. They will tell you the truth about break-ins, crime sprees, etc.
* Security by committee: While you don’t always have time for a community watch, it is valuable to establish a network of area business that are dedicated to watching out for one another.
* Ask for help: Work with your local police department to make sure that they have somebody patrol the area from time to time. Criminals that case the area pay particular note to this.
— Source: Brent C. Brown, chairman and CEO of Chesley Brown International Inc.
Michael J. Pallerino has reported on business news for magazines and newspapers in the Atlanta area for more than 20 years.