March 13, 2003
JSA Issues Alerts on Burglaries and Home Invasions
A wave of cases involving sophisticated burglaries of store premises and invasions of jewelers' homes prompted the Jewelers Security Alliance to release two alerts to its members on March 12.
The New York City area and California have been hit by a spate of burglaries. Common patterns for the successful crimes included alarm systems that either didn't work or weren't responded to properly and the use of burning bars or torches to crack safes.
When alarm systems aren't sophisticated enough, don't work or security personnel and store owners can't or don't respond effectively, it gives burglars the time they need to open safes using today's high-tech burning bars, which JSA says can burn at temperatures as high as 9,000 degrees and are effective against even highly rated safes.
JSA made several recommendations to jewelers to prevent more of these kinds of losses:
Provide cell phone numbers to alarm companies so you can be called if an alarm is reported. If the alarm company says an alarm is out of service, owners should hire security guards or keep someone on the premises until the alarm is functioning again. Burglars often trip alarms, then wait to see if someone comes or stays around before entering.
Provide keys to your store to the alarm company. Without keys, it's extremely difficult for the responding guard to know what's going on inside. If you're concerned about guards having access to your store, just be sure you keep all jewelry in safes or vaults every night.
Consider having two alarm systems if your inventory is significant. If one is compromised, the other can still work. They should have two different systems of transmission, such as though telephone lines and radio.
Invest in "line security." This sophisticated element of some alarm systems triggers an alarm if burglars attempt to cut or disable the system. Without line security, you don't have an effective alarm system, says JSA.
Cover the basics where your alarm is concerned: choose an Underwriters Laboratories-listed central-station alarm company, understand the alarm protection you're getting, ensure you're getting what you paid for, test your alarm system periodically and provide proper maintenance.
Though few home invasions are as brutal as the late-2002 murder of a jeweler and his family in Livonia, MI, several other home invasions have occurred. These crimes exposed jewelers and their families to gun-wielding robbers who often injured them before taking store keys and attempting to hold family members hostage. About half the cases JSA sees each year happen to retail jewelers; the other half are suffered by traveling sales persons.
Since robbers usually case their victims, always be aware of being watched or followed. People sitting in a car near your home or store too long, a car that follows you when you leave the store and suspicious phone calls or customers should trigger a call to police to check possible suspects.
Keep a logbook so all your employees can record suspicious incidents. Ask them to write down the time, license plate numbers, names used, and suspects' physical descriptions.
You must train your family including younger members, babysitters and temporary visitors. They should not give out information on the phone or open the door to unknown people, perhaps including delivery personnel. They should become aware of suspicious people watching the house. If you have trusted neighbors, ask them to also keep an eye out. Household help of any kind can make you more vulnerable, so do background checks and screen carefully.
When choosing a new home, consider security issues, such as: living on a dead-end street versus heavily traveled areas, the closeness of neighbors and the garage or parking set-up. Basics include having proper locks, alarms systems and good lighting. Some jewelers highly recommend having a dog at home for warning and protection.
Keep large safes or quantities of jewelry merchandise out of your house.
Have an unlisted and unpublished home phone number and keep a charged cell phone with you at all times, including at your bedside at night.
Get to know someone in a supervisory position at your local police department and advise him of the special risks jewelers face, so when you need to call, your contact is familiar with your needs.
Have a security code-phrase family members can use on the phone to alert each other there's trouble. It should be a statement unlikely to arouse robbers' suspicions.
For more information about joining the Jewelers' Security Alliance to receive crime alerts, security information and other benefits, call JSA at (800) 537-0067, (212) 687-0328 or e-mail email@example.com.
by Peggy Jo Donahue