According to the FBI’s report entitled Crime in the United States, 2010, state and local law enforcement agencies made an estimated 13.1 million arrests in 2010, excluding traffic violations. Of this number, 552,077 were for violent crimes and 1.6 million were for property crimes, such as residential and commercial burglaries.
The highest number of arrests were for drug related criminal activity (1.6 million arrests), driving under the influence (1.4 million), and larceny-theft (1.2 million). The FBI reported an estimated arrest rate for the United States in 2010 at 4,257 arrests per 100,000 inhabitants. In 2011 the National Employment Law Project commissioned a study of their own and found that 65 million Americans, roughly one in four, had some sort of criminal record.
Given these statistics, employers throughout the U.S., from small businesses to large corporations, should consider pre-screening background checks on all potential employees. Gone are the days when hiring decisions were based on a 10-minute interview and a one-page application. Failing to conduct a proper background investigation could result in your company hiring an employee who steals from you, commits workplace violence, or willfully violates company policies and procedures; all of which create liability issues that, in the long run, can cost businesses money.
Criminals are always looking for new and stealthy ways of infiltrating businesses and gaining access to sensitive company information, not to mention client information, such as social security numbers, addresses, credit card numbers, and dates of birth. Criminals will use this information to commit identity theft and other fraud related crimes. What’s more, many felons are members or associates of organized criminal street gangs and intentionally seek legitimate employment in order to hide or filter illegal sources of money and to expand their criminal enterprise.
According to the FBI’s 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment – Emerging Trends report, gangs are becoming increasingly knowledgeable in the area of advanced technology, which members use to facilitate criminal activity and enhance their criminal operations.
Gang members routinely utilize the Internet to network with one another, recruit new members, promote their gang, and facilitate criminal activity such as drug trafficking, extortion, identity theft, money laundering, and prostitution. Many gang members are engaging in more sophisticated criminal schemes, including white-collar and cyber-crime, and targeting and infiltrating corporate computer systems to gain access to sensitive areas of information. Employers who give computer access to these criminals are putting themselves at significant risk.
So what can employers do to prevent their businesses from becoming infiltrated by these clever criminals? Here are six strategies that companies should adopt when conducting background screenings:
1. Never assume your company is not vulnerable.
Criminal street gang members are becoming increasingly aware of how personal appearance can attract negative attention from law enforcement, as well as prevent an employer from considering them as worthwhile applicants. Gang members frequently think twice about displaying obvious gang related tattoos or wearing clothes commonly associated with gang culture. However, once past the hiring process and firmly established in your business, criminals have the perfect conduit for distributing illegal drugs, stealing inventory, and pilfering sensitive computer information.
2. Adopt strong screening procedures and perform thorough background checks.
Nothing eliminates a dubious applicant faster than a thorough background check. The time and effort given to a background investigation is directly proportional to the quality of potential employee gained by the business. Gang members have become highly adept at forging Social Security cards, driver’s licenses and other documentation commonly required during the hiring process. Criminals also rely on friends with legitimate businesses for references and often create bogus work histories. Additionally, companies using third-party agencies to perform background checks should always specify in writing what the investigation should include. Be specific and tailor the check to your business’ needs and don’t assume that a low-cost check will get your company the desired results. When it comes to criminal background checks, you do get what you pay for.
3. Understand the signs and symbols that gangs use and educate HR personnel in recognizing indicators of gang and criminal culture.
For some gang members, tattoos, clothing and jewelry can serve as identifying marks. Part of the background screening process should include the disclosure of tattoos and the applicant describing the meaning and significance of each tattoo. Typical gang tattoos include street names or initials which represent the applicant’s gang. Applicants often attempt to explain away these tattoos as being the names or initials of loved family members. Educating HR personnel and establishing dress code and grooming policies can also help prevent making poor hiring decisions.
4. Network with local law enforcement agencies, and exchange information with partner companies.
Police investigators often debrief gang members and other criminals and are up-to-date with the latest crime trends and patterns. If you suspect gang activity within your workplace, employers should consult with police gang experts and request law enforcement agencies to conduct specialized training for managers and HR personnel. A worksite inspection conducted by knowledgeable officers can assist managers in identifying areas of concern, such as restrooms and employee break rooms where gang graffiti and drug dealing are commonplace.
5. Take security seriously.
Corporate security begins with hiring employees who have been properly vetted and extends to the protection of the actual workplace, including sensitive company information, inventory and assets, and fellow employees. Businesses that utilize video surveillance systems, control access cards and on-site security are much less likely to be targeted by criminals. Businesses can further lessen the likelihood of workplace crime by informing employees that there is no expectation of privacy within the common areas of the worksite and that security policies are clearly outlined during new employee training and orientation sessions.
6. Adopt a standard of zero-tolerance.
A soft or permissive attitude can lead to enormous problems. Businesses have an obligation to provide a safe and crime-free workplace, and to hire employees who will not pose a risk to co-workers, either through violence, theft or other crimes. A lax or inconsistent approach toward employee crime sends a dangerous message that certain behaviors will be tolerated; which in turn can lead to employee lawsuits, attrition and low morale. Consider also that insurance companies may not pay a claim if it is proven that a problem employee should have been terminated for previous actions. An employer’s willingness to seek or assist in the prosecution of criminal employees establishes a clear stance regarding company security, and it demonstrates a supportive attitude toward victimized co-workers.
Considering the substantial number of Americans with criminal records, conducting meticulous background checks may be the best investment a business can make. The benefits of comprehensive pre-employment screening include an increased quality in new employees, reduced workplace violence, reduced negligent hiring liability, reduced losses from employee dishonesty, and avoiding negative publicity. The end result is that quality background checks protect your organization and foster success.
Labels: 65 Million Criminals Looking for Work