DETERRING ARMED ROBBERY
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.
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.
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, www.wwsc.com.
Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.