March 1998


Prepare for this most frightening retail crime, and you may just stop it before it happens

by Elie Ribacoff

Many jewelers see security as an expensive way to protect their valuables after their stores close. In fact, some jewelers forgo alarms, insurance, and sometimes safes to conserve capital to use on inventory.

Bad move. The more inventory you have, the more you stand to lose and the more you need good security. Statistics show that jewelers are prime targets of amateur and professional thieves. Insurers know that eventually every jeweler - no matter how large, careful or secure - will have a loss of some kind. One major threat is armed robbery. By far the most frightening of all threats, armed robberies don't occur by chance. Too often jewelers assume nothing can be done to prevent such a random and often violent act.

In fact, you can take numerous precautions.

Look Around
How easy is access to your store or office? Do you use buzzers or man-traps? Is there enough staff on hand so a robbery would be impractical? Do you stay alone in your store late at night or any other time? Do you have surveillance cameras, hold-up buttons, adequate lighting?

A criminal typically plans a crime. To stay a step ahead, a shrewd jeweler rotates opening and closing procedures, staff and routine. A well-staffed location is difficult for one or two gunmen to control. Any one of many employees can hit a hold-up button, run for help or pose the perception of a physical threat.

Another important deterrent is created as you develop a rapport with local law enforcement. Invite their representatives to visit and patrol the store frequently and at random hours.

Physical Devices
Surveillance cameras offer a deterrent factor and an added bonus. These systems are excellent for evidentiary purposes. A well-designed system consists of overt and covert cameras, with a secreted recording device or hidden backup recorder. A dummy or even an actual recorder can be left in plain sight. This is in case the robbers demand the surveillance video during the robbery. The robber may take one copy or a dummy tape, but another real recording exists in a remote secure area. For law enforcement, one surveillance video can be better at obtaining an identification than any "dream team" of attorneys or witnesses.

A note of caution: never use dummy cameras. These are not going to fool any crook and may raise certain liability issues. Making a customer feel safe in a store when that isn't the case may leave you open to a lawsuit if a robbery occurs. Instead of providing deterrence, you provide what courts have called a "false sense of security" with a dummy video camera.

Never resist an armed robber.
If your store is properly secured with staff, surveillance, door locks and procedures to deter such a threat, you have less to fear. Encourage your employees to stay vigilant. Work out a code word to identify suspicious people. For example, one employee may say, "We should lower the radio" or "turn on the radio" to alert others. A predesignated employee may then call for assistance while another goes outside the store with a cellular phone, waiting and watching. He also should note license plates and descriptions of cars waiting nearby with engines idling.

Common sense should play a key role in your crime prevention strategy. If something is suspicious, act. It's better to be wrong than to be robbed. Many crime victims confess they had a feeling something was about to happen but were too embarrassed or afraid of being wrong.

Elie Ribacoff is president of Worldwide Security Systems & Consultants, New York City; (718) 380-0209,

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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