Tough Love

August 1998


Tough Love

Jewelers often feel hopeless about armed robberies. But Samuel Gordon's store-based security expert makes a difference

Security advisers regularly warn retailers not to arm themselves or try to disarm robbers because many such criminals are easily provoked into violent reactions.

Jeweler Gary Gordon thought long and hard about such eventualities before hiring his security expert, Hugh Mitchell, a Marine combat veteran who worked for 20 years in high-risk security as an executive protection expert. Gordon, who operates Samuel Gordon Jewelers, a large store in Oklahoma City, OK, was interested in taking a proactive stance against the criminal element – one of Mitchell's most important roles.

It doesn't work the way you may think. Mitchell's resume suggests a bull-necked, crew-cut, Secret Service-type with attitude. In reality, Mitchell's a guy with a great smile, friendly handshake and personality to spare. Dressed in a suit, just like Gordon and the store's male sales associates, Mitchell is the first person to greet and warmly welcome each person who enters the store. He asks what they might be looking for and tells them he will get a salesperson. Such attention flatters customers and makes them feel welcome.

But such small talk also gives Mitchell the vital time he needs to assess each person as a potential threat. What tips off Mitchell that a person has less-than-honorable intentions? "Years of experience," he says. "You learn to read people. I stay focused and alert all the time. I never relax, but it never shows in my demeanor." Such concentration was honed during years of martial arts training (he has a black belt in the Korean martial art Tae Kwan Do). He attends security seminars six times a year, staying updated on such topics as human behavior, tactical firearms, hand-to-hand combat, first-response medicine and natural disasters.

Effective Presence
Most customers don't have a clue that Mitchell is a security person. But people trying to case the store and those contemplating a robbery do. How does such a nice guy convey menace and warning to shady characters? "I approach suspects with what I'd call a professional intimidating posture. It's like a mind game. It makes them feel uncomfortable and they usually leave," he says. "Most criminals are looking for an easy target. If they see you're there, they go elsewhere."

Mitchell stays abreast of local and nationwide jewelry crime through the Jewelers' Security Alliance, Jewelers Mutual, local police and the FBI. Because of this, he's aware of several instances where criminals cased Samuel Gordon Jewelers and later committed crimes elsewhere. In his six years with the store, there have been no losses from robberies.

Mitchell conducts regular training sessions with the store's employees, teaching them protective measures such as when to stay out of the way and emergency planning. The staff role-plays scenarios in which they use and practice code words and phrases. Everyone in the store has a job to do and standard procedures to follow.

He also stays in close contact with local police and knows the patrol officers. He hears about criminal elements in the area and shares with police what he's learned about jewelry criminal gangs operating nationwide. He's even held role-playing sessions for officers to demonstrate the techniques jewelry crooks use during robberies (when he travels, he hires off-duty city police to guard the store).

"We've far outgrown the days of rent-a-cop," Mitchell says about jobs like his in jewelry stores.

– by Peggy Jo Donahue

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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