Encountering an armed robber is one of the scariest things a jeweler can experience, but experts say there are certain measures you can take to prevent a robbery, or to minimize the damage should one take place, as well as advice you should follow during and after an encounter that will help keep you safe. These tips come from the Jewelers’ Security Alliance, insurance professionals, retailers, and other industry experts.
1. Vary your route to and from the store and keep an eye on your rearview mirror to make sure you’re not being followed.
2. Don’t open or close the store alone. While one employee locks or unlocks the door, a second employee should watch from a safe distance that still gives a good view of the door. The second person also should have a mobile phone to call the police if the coworker is confronted.
3. Observe the surroundings of the store when you arrive. If a person or car is loitering by the building, or if doors or windows appear open or tampered with, stay out of sight and call police.
4. Don’t let anyone enter the store before you’ve opened or after you’ve closed at night.
5. Verify the identification of delivery drivers and other people who come into your store.
6. Use a buzzer system, doorbell, or chime so you know when someone is entering the store.
7. Think twice before installing two locking doors with a vestibule. Armed robbers who are trapped are more likely to shoot their way out.
Observe the surroundings of the store when you arrive. If a person or car is loitering by the building, or if doors or windows appear open or tampered with, stay out of sight and call the police.
8. Have at least two employees—three is even better—on the floor at all times. The chance of armed robbery goes up with only one person on the floor.
9. Train all associates on how to spot and respond to suspicious people and behavior.
10. Have employees take breaks at different times so a would-be robber won’t know when the store is likely to be the most lightly staffed.
11. Look at and greet all customers who enter your store, and keep a careful eye on those who avoid interacting with you or seem preoccupied.
12. Keep a close watch on groups that come in together, especially if they arrive at an odd hour or seem to be signaling or surreptitiously communicating with one another.
13. Robbers often visit an intended target beforehand to case it. Be observant of anyone who seems to be paying more attention to the details of the premises—like looking for cameras—and staff procedures than the merchandise.
14. Keep an eye out for individuals or vehicles loitering outside directly in sight of your store.
15. Keep a “suspicious incidents” log book. When an incident raises a red flag, jot down times, dates, descriptions of people or cars, license plate numbers, and anything else you notice.
16. Be proactive and reach out to your local police department. Discuss with them the special problems jewelers encounter and keep them apprised of any suspicious behavior you observe.
17. Install a surveillance camera and recording system. Make some cameras obvious (so would-be crooks know they’re being watched) and others concealed. Consider having a second recorder or storing the video remotely, so a thief can’t take the device and rob you of evidence as well.
18. Use reinforced glass or display cases specially made to resist the force of a smash-and-grab robbery.
19. Don’t leave valuable merchandise in your store window after you close for the day.
20. Don’t show a shopper more than one item at a time; keep their hands in your peripheral vision even if you’re retrieving an item they request.
21. Install a one-way mirror in your store. Even if there’s nobody watching on the other side, a potential robber won’t know that.
Install a surveillance camera and recording system. Make some cameras obvious (so would-be crooks know they’re being watched) and others concealed. Consider having a second recorder or storing the video remotely, so a thief can’t take the device and rob you of evidence as well.
22. Have height markers along the doorways so police looking at surveillance footage can determine how tall a robber is.
23. Select a code word or phrase as an alert, so all employees know someone is exhibiting suspicious behavior, but customers won’t be alarmed.
24. If a person is merely acting suspicious but hasn’t (yet) committed a crime, a cellphone can be a powerful deterrent. Have an employee leave the store while dialing a cellphone in plain sight. Or hold your phone in such a way that you could be viewing the screen—or taking a photograph.
25. If the employee going outside can do so in a safe manner, he or she also should note car descriptions and license plate numbers.
26. Don’t keep all your highest value items in one display case. If they’re scattered throughout the store, then you won’t lose as much in a smash-and-grab.
27. Consider not displaying all your stock of your priciest pieces like diamonds and watches.
28. If customers inquire about an item of particular value that’s not on display—such as a collection of loose diamonds—be aware that they may be watching to see where you keep these items. If their behavior or demeanor seems suspicious, just say you don’t have what they’re looking for.
29. When the amount of merchandise—and subsequent risk—increases during special events like trunk shows, consider hiring an armed guard or off-duty police officer.
30. Make sure your store interior is clearly visible from the street. Limit the number of banners or signs so your employees can see anything suspicious outside and passersby can see inside.
31. No one wants to contemplate the unpleasant, but prepare a plan of action so all employees know the procedure if a robbery attempt is made.
32. Maintain an up-to-date list of emergency contact numbers near the telephone.
33. Do what the robbers tell you and try not to panic.
34. Don’t do anything to challenge the robbers verbally or physically—such as attempting to wrestle a gun away from them.
35. Avoid sudden movements and potentially threatening gestures, such as raising your hands.
36. Don’t stare them down. Direct eye contact can be construed as a provocation.
37. Tell the robbers anything that might surprise them, like an employee in the back or someone you’re expecting to arrive. Caught off guard, they may be more likely to resort to violence.
38. Take mental notes so you can tell police as much as possible: How many robbers are there? How tall are they? What’s their hair, eye, and skin color? What are they wearing? Do they have distinctive features like scars, tattoos, or facial hair?
39. If you see any weapons, try to memorize what they look like; those details could help the police in their investigation.
40. Observe what they touch (cases, doorknobs, etc.) so that you can alert the police to possible fingerprint evidence when they arrive.
41. Don’t pull a gun of your own if they already have a gun pointed at you. Remember, they have the advantage of time; they could shoot you before you get a chance to fire yours.
42. The less time the robbers are in the store, the less risk of injury. Once robbers have the merchandise, they can be expected to leave quickly.
43. If you are out of the robber’s sight and he or she is unaware of your presence, keep it that way. Walking into a crime in progress could mean risking your life.
44. Don’t chase or follow the robbers out of the store.
45. Don’t hit a panic button or holdup alarm until after the thieves leave. Police confronting an armed robber could result in a shootout or hostage situation.
If you are out of the robber’s sight and he or she is unaware of your presence, keep it that way. Walking into a crime in progress could mean risking your life.
46. After they leave, lock the door behind them and call police.
47. Don’t clean off display cases or other surfaces because that could destroy fingerprints or other valuable evidence.
48. Try to keep witnesses present until the police arrive, or at least get their contact information so police can follow up with them later.
49. Do not talk to the media, permit cameras, or allow your employees to be interviewed.
50. Get a copy of the police report to submit to your insurance company. Prepare to collect inventory and purchase records that the insurer will use to verify your loss.
-Martha C. White | May 20, 2013 JCK Online