Art theft is on the rise. Did you know that the FBI estimates that the black market for art is worth $6 billion annually, and that art theft falls within the 4th largest area of criminal activity worldwide, according to Interpol? 2011 has seen a number of high profile thefts from art galleries, museums, homes and even hotels worldwide.

Take the case of Mark Lugo, who walked into a San Francisco art gallery on a July morning this year, plucked a Picasso sketch from the wall, and walked right back out. Luckily for the gallery, a pub next door happened to catch the thief on its sidewalk security camera. When they searched his apartment, detectives learned that Lugo had quite a collection of stolen artworks from various institutions, including several art galleries.

Or how about the Rembrandt drawing worth $250,000 lifted from the walls of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Marina del Ray, CA in August while the curator was “distracted?” Luckily for the hotel, the thief apparently got wet feet and dumped the 1655 drawing not far away in an LA church.

While these two cases were luckily resolved quickly, most art thefts are not. What can you do to prevent theft from occurring at your art gallery? A few key measures can increase the security at your gallery immensely for little cost: 1.Do you have a formal employee security training program? Are employees, for example, trained to assist each other in monitoring the gallery when one or more of them is busy with a client? During business hours, are all artworks in your gallery within the view of an employee at all times? Does each employee receive a security briefing upon hiring and annually? Even the slightest awareness of the need for coordinated security can greatly improve your gallery’s protection. 2.Do you have a central station burglar/fire alarm system that monitors all entrances and windows to your gallery 24×7? 3.Is the entrance(s) to your gallery monitored at all times? 4.Have you installed a video surveillance system, to at least monitor the entrance(s) to your gallery? A quick Google search shows many systems that can be installed indoors for a minimal amount of money–especially compared to the consequences of having to track down a thief after the fact with no video footage to assist detectives. 5.Do you or does your curator consider security when placing artwork? Do you consider the balance between security and aesthetics/sales when determining which location to place particular pieces? How do you monitor your most valuable artworks? 6.In the event a theft does occur, are properly insured to protect you and mitigate any financial loss?

Taking the time to consider these and other security measures before a theft occurs can save you a great amount of time and expense. The negative consequences of a theft at your gallery are likely to exceed your expectations, and in today’s economic environment no one needs an extra hardship to face.