Professional Jeweler Archive: Safe and Secure

May 2005

The Store | Managing: Security

Safe & Secure

Here are strategies for preventing a loss and making your safe truly secure

By William H. Donahue, Jr.

Safes and vaults offer protection, says Richard Krasilovsky, president of Empire Safe Co. in New York City. But a safe company’s goal should be to sell prevention.

Given enough time and the right equipment, any safe can be compromised, says David Sexton, vice president of loss prevention at Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co., Neenah, WI. The goal is to make sure the burglar doesn’t get that time.

To start, don’t put your safe against an exterior wall. Krasilovsky advises having at least a 3-ft. perimeter around your safe, with alarm and motion sensors monitoring that space. To protect the safe’s walls, place several safes together or build reinforced walls around them.

The safe should be visible from the street. Burglars don’t like an audience. Lights should be left on, and police should be made aware of that.

The industry has seen an increase in store invasions through ceilings and outside walls that don’t set off alarms. John Kennedy, president of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance, New York City, suggests a back-up alarm system on the safe with a different company as well as a cellular back-up alarm.

Be sure your safe is UL-rated. If it’s not, your insurance company or a safe technician can help you determine its resistance. Rick Rolland of Rolland Safe Co., Dallas, TX, says that for $500, burglars can buy tools that will compromise almost any safe. Hot saws or carborundum gas-powered disks, an oxy-acetylene torch, plasma cutters and thermic lances are just some of the tools burglars use. Cindy Prosser, who oversees safe testing and rating at UL, says torch tests on safes are done with the oxy-acetylene torch, but not plasma cutters or thermic lances. She says these tests may be adopted in the future if the use of such tools become more prevalent.

Compartmentalize your safe. Having multiple safes, multiple-compartment safes or properly secured metal shelving in the safe can thwart a burglar, says Rolland. Krasilovsky says multiple small safes inside a vault can be a deterrent too.

Put everything in your safe at night. A full 69% of burglaries take three minutes or less, says Kennedy. If you can’t fit everything in the safe, put remaining inventory in locked and concealed boxes or smaller safes. JMI and JSA don’t advise you to cover showcases with cloth to hide unsecured inventory.

Disappearing Showcases

Consider installing disappearing showcases. Faubion Associates Inc., Dallas, TX, builds showcases that allow inventory to drop down into the case and out of sight. It sells about 10,000 units annually. These aren’t safes and won’t meet insurance company requirements, but by removing inventory from view, they can deter theft.

Leo Faubion of Faubion Associates says using disappearing showcases also saves the time and labor required to set up and take down inventory, prevent damage to or loss of jewelry during the transition from showcase to safe and serve as a deterrent during after-hours smash-and-grab burglaries.

Buying & Maintenance Tips

Your safe supplier should provide a turnkey operation, advises Rolland, including a security analysis of your needs, transportation of the safe to your store and installation. This may sound obvious, but he says many companies don’t do this, and the cost to finish the job may be high. Proper installation is critical. He also recommends an overall review of security as well as safe maintenance every three years.

Pay attention to seemingly small problems such as doors not opening or closing smoothly or locks not working properly. Lockouts can be avoided by addressing these problems.

Expanding Your Options

If your business is growing, consider an expandable, modular safe. City Safe Inc., Farmingdale, NJ, offers a 2-ft. cube safe weighing about 1,100 pounds. Greg Nilles, City Safe’s vice president, says it can expand to room size, can be fitted with multiple compartments and can be assembled in areas where it would be difficult to fit a fully assembled safe.

Access Security Products Inc., Oakville, Ontario, Canada, offers modular vault systems including its new Temper-Vault.™ President Peter Gauthier says using innovative materials has produced the thinnest modular vault panels to receive a UL listing. Gauthier says this reduces the vault footprint in the store and make installations more cost-effective because the thinner panels are easier to handle.

Loss Prevention While You’re Open

Rather than open and close the safe and its interior compartments, many jewelers just leave it open. Risky, yes, but many jewelers consider it part of doing business in the real world.

Empire Safe’s Krasilovsky says jewelers are better off to take everything out of the safe or vault during business hours to prevent robbers’ easy access to valuable inventory. If you do have goods you can’t display, secure them elsewhere in locked boxes or smaller, hidden safes, he advises.

Access Is the Key

Controlling access to your safe is as important as the safe itself. Much of the new technology offered today is in locking and access devices. La Gard Inc., Torrance, CA, introduced Smartlinc, designed for use with multicompartment safes. Smartlinc allows you to control multiple locks with a single keypad to access the main safe and inner compartments, says Tasha Birdwell, marketing manager for La Gard.

Smartlinc has an audit trail of the most recent 500 lock operations, multiple users, time delay, time lock and eKeyII access. It can be used with dual-handed swingbolt, deadbolt, springbolt and redundant mechanical locks. It has an optional silent signal (duress) alarm to alert police or your alarm company when a preset modified access code is used. Smartlinc and other electronic locking devices are available on new safes through most major safe manufacturers. The devices also can be retrofit to your existing safe.


To update your safe, contact the manufacturer to get information on locking technology and installation costs or on installing inner compartments or shelving.

You also may contact a qualified safe technician. A safe technician is different from a locksmith, says Ken Dunckel of Safecrackers, a safety and security consulting firm in Pacifica, CA. A safe technician helps you choose locking devices appropriate for your security needs and can help you integrate safes or vaults into your security system. The Safe & Vault Technicians Association’s website,, has a member list of safe technicians nationwide.

  • Empire Safe Co., New York City; (212) 684-2255,
  • Rolland Safe Co., Dallas, TX; (972) 243-3711,
  • City Safe Inc., Farmingdale, NJ; (732) 751-0100 or at
  • Faubion, Dallas, TX; (214) 565-1000,
  • Access Security Products Inc., Oakville, Ontario, Canada; (800) 268-9033,
  • La Gard, Torrance, CA; (949) 574-3440,
  • Safecrackers, Pacifica, CA; (650) 355-0474.
A safe should provide you with protection, and your vendor should provide you with the tools for loss prevention with a full turnkey program. These safes are from City Safe Inc., Farmingdale, NJ.

Copyright © 2005 by Bond Communications