A few years ago the software company I was working for located to a unit on the edge of a trading estate in Washington, Tyne and Wear. This was a fairly desolate and depressing place, mostly inhabited by back street car repair shops, second hand car tyre dealers, and rip-off pay day lenders. As a supposed “high-tech” company, we stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. A couple of weeks after we moved in a car stopped in the car park, and a couple of guys got out. After kicking away the tumble weeds they popped the hood and made a display of checking under the bonnet. It looked suspicious so I went outside and confronted them. They said their car was overheating and they were checking it. They got back in and drove off. It was obviously bollocks and I managed to get their plate number as they drove off.
That weekend we were broken into and several top-end Sun workstations taken. The attending police confirmed that they’d obviously been “casing the joint”. They dusted everything for prints (none had been left), and checked the licence plate (the car proved to be stolen). The boss’s response, at the suggestion of the police, was to protect the door with a grill secured with a “£1000” lock. Next weekend they returned and pulled the grate off (thus neatly avoiding the world’s most expensive lock). Fortunately the new workstations hadn’t arrived so they had to make do with phones and printers.
Next solution was to spend about 20k on a high tech security system which was hooked up to the local cop shop (with whom we were now on first name terms, and had a standing invite to the Policeman ‘s Ball). It also released some sort of smoke that was supposed to confuse would be blaggers. Unfortunately, you only had about 30 seconds to unlock the grate, open the door and disarm the system, which wasn’t long enough for one of the more doddery employees (a chap so old that at the end of his first day one of my colleagues asked me if he’d “mentioned The War” yet?) . Third day after the Fort Knox compliant security system was installed our most venerable employee was first in. After fumbling with the entry procedure he failed to enter the code quick enough, so the system went off, calling the cop shop and releasing the smoke – which meant he couldn’t see well enough to rest the alarm and enter the code correctly for several minutes – by which time 3 plod squad cars had turned up. They weren’t pleased. They were even less pleased when he did the same thing again a few days later. They regretfully informed us that they could no longer respond to any automated call outs from our premises, and that the Policeman’s Ball invite was rescinded.
Next weekend the blaggers returned. The alarm went off, but there was no-one to hear it and all the smoke had been used up in the two false calls. The new workstations had arrived a couple of days before, which they duly liberated as previously. This was especially distressing to me personally – as sys admin I’d spent the last two days setting them up and restoring from backup and what-not.
The boss (finally!) decided we had to move out. In the meantime he hired a security firm to provide a permanent out of hours presence in the form of a short, tubby, minimum waged, middle aged, bloke (I’d be a dead ringer for him now). Next weekend they returned. On encountering “The Security” they deployed a counter offensive in the form of baseball bats. Mr Blobby ( wisely) locked himself in the boss’s glass office and made a big show of not using the telephone or doing anything else that could be construed in any way hindering their activities.
We left the delights of Washington New Town before the next weekend, ending up in city centre offices in Newcastle. This was preferable in many many ways – handy access to Eldon sq. bouldering wall, more and better pubs, easier to get to, sharing the premises with clearly richer (thus theoretically more blaggable) businesses, less likely to get clubbed to death if you worked late….