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Articles from EDUCATION / TRAINING (185 Articles)

Security that hardware can't buy
Security that hardware can't buy
 









 

How your staff can help prevent store theft

Do you know how your own jewellery sales staff can offer better security than CCTV, alarms, padlocks and glass cases? Naomi Levin gets some expert advice on what every jewellery store should know about reducing instances of theft.

It is a silver screen cliché: a gang of balaclava-clad thieves plot their way to an enormous diamond. They outrun guard dogs, cut the wires to deactivate alarms, crawl along air conditioning ducts, duck and weave under laser beams and finally reach the treasure – before being busted just as they are about to grasp the holy grail.

While this is certainly a Hollywood scenario, it is not too far from what could happen in a suburban jewellery store or to a jeweller in a mall. Irrespective of the location of a jewellery retailer, a jewellery store is likely to stock the most individually valuable, portable and easily sold on to ‘others’ merchandise – making it an attractive target for criminals. Yet jewellery stores large and small continue to fall foul of some of the most basic procedures.

According to the experts there are a few easy measures jewellers and store managers can take to prevent break-ins and thefts. You might have heard this information before – but has your store really heeded the message, and is your security strategy being maintained?

Alarms, reinforced glass, cameras and heavy duty safes are all important security hardware, but licensed security expert Alan Henderson, who is a consultant to the large jewellery insurance brokers and has been surveying jewellery-related premises since 1994, emphasises that well-trained, professional staff are the best security guarantee. It is these employees that can mean the difference between a damaging theft and a top-notch deterrent to would-be crimes.

“If you look professional and act professional, people thinking about [committing a crime] will look and say ‘These guys look professional, I’m not sure’,” Henderson explains.

About to visit a store on Queensland’s Gold Coast one day, Henderson was unpleasantly surprised to observe the sales staff gossiping in a room out the back, while the open store was left unattended.

A thief might not pounce at that very moment, but he or she might get the impression the staff are often distracted and that the store is an easy target for a quick daytime smash-and-grab.

On the other hand, had staff appeared to be attentive, constantly moving around, cleaning and surveying stock, the potential thief would probably consider the store too troublesome to bother with.

“The person is the weak point. The training provided to staff is important,” Henderson says. That training needs to encompass a wide range of protocols, tips and procedures in-store to ensure the security of both product and staff.

The first protocol is for staff to open up and lock up in pairs. When only one staff member opens and closes in the morning or in the evening, a thief could use the opportunity to threaten the vulnerable staff member until they hand over keys, alarm codes or safe combinations. The presence of two or more staff members creates doubt in the mind of the criminal as to whether he can control that many people. It also means there is more possibility of the alarm being raised if a crisis arises.

“Personal safety is paramount,” Henderson explains. “Everything else is insured.” If staff are nevertheless caught in a dangerous situation, Henderson recommends complying with the aggressor.

Overnight, in accordance with retailers’ insurance policy, high value pieces must be kept in a locked safe. If this is not done and the shop is broken into, the insurance claim could become void, Henderson warns.

When staff arrive in the morning, the first thing they should do is lock the door behind them. Only then should they start setting up for the day.

It can be a bore and seem a waste of time to pack up displays every evening, “but robberies happen very quickly”, the security expert explains.

Henderson speaks of another store he visited, where valuable stock was left on display in the window overnight. Those high-priced pieces were stolen one night and the insurer refused to pay above the insured amount.

During opening hours, Henderson recommends that staff should be trained to use “voice codes”, to alert each other to suspicious activities. Particularly in larger stores, he says employees need to be able to alert each other to unusual activity without customers noticing. “If one of the staff has suspicions about someone, they should say to the other staff something like ‘Do you have any Coco rings?’” Henderson explains. “Use an innocuous saying or phrase to alert staff to a potential problem.”

Voice codes increase the likelihood that a staff member will know to walk over to a suspicious character, check what they are doing, engage them in conversation and hopefully encourage them in a subtle way to leave the store by making them feel self-conscious.

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One issue encountered by managers is that of providing security training to teenage casuals who aren’t necessarily going to stick around long. So should security just be left for senior staff to manage? No, says Henderson – operational security is everyone’s responsibility.

“Have a buddy system. Partner a senior member of staff with a junior staff member. It’s a good way to teach them how to be professional and how to control their area,” he advises.

Senior staff should teach juniors to avoid distractions while serving a customer and to only remove one or two items at a time from a showcase for potential buyers to admire. Fewer pieces on the counter enables staff to control their area and avoid substitution or theft.

Wily criminals could exchange a valuable piece for a fake item without staff noticing, perhaps by rummaging around in a handbag while being served or dropping an item and then making a big fuss while picking it up.  A staff member who is not fully alert could easily miss indicators such as “trying to rush staff, trying on too many items at a time and putting too many items on the counter at once”, Henderson says.

How about when pieces need to be moved between stores, from wholesalers or to trade fairs? Henderson has one basic tip: look normal. “I know jewellers in town who move $10,000 or more of product around and they look like they are going to the nearest Woolworths,” he says.

Brink’s Global Service also provides assistance to jewellers moving goods, particularly to trade fairs, to special events, between stores and internationally. The company has full liability insurance and uses armoured trucks for transportation, which sales and marketing manager Caroline Cavanagh says provides peace of mind to nervous jewellers.

“The key for moving valuable cargo safely around Australia and the world is that it is in our possession the whole time,” Cavanagh says. “The only time the goods are not in our possession is when the goods are loaded onto an aircraft [but], even then, our guards go planeside and witness the aircraft doors closing and witness take-off. There will be a guard waiting on the tarmac at the other side.”

What about the hardware in a store or at a trade show? Vigilant staff and external guards can only do so much.

The first thing to do is lay out the shop carefully. Many insurance companies specify the more valuable the item, the further back in the store it should be displayed. And it might sound silly, but ensure that all display cabinets are lockable and remain locked at all times.

Bars on back windows, particularly those facing carparks or laneways, are an intelligent choice and alarms systems are essential, with Henderson recommending wireless devices, which are no more expensive than the old-fashioned, wired-in systems. The advantage is they cannot be cut by would-be thieves.

Henderson advises jewellers to invest in closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV). He recalls a job he did in Canberra where the owner, who was initially hesitant about investing in CCTV, soon called him to report the system had paid for itself. He asked the merchant how this had happened so quickly, and the man replied that a staff member had been stealing small amounts of cash from the cash register over time, and was only identified thanks to the cameras.

However, the best CCTV in the world won’t help jewellers if the system isn’t working.   Henderson explains: “If the images are being recorded using a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) it operates using a hard drive. It is not uncommon that the hard drives fail in DVRs and it is important that the DVR system is programmed correctly. If the DVR hard drive ‘goes down’ it does not mean that the images from the cameras will not appear on the monitor. This is where users can miss a DVR problem.”

He recommends that jewellers ensure their technician programmes a red-spot hard drive indicator on each camera so that when employees look at the monitor they can see that the system is recording.

None of these suggestions are earth-shattering; instead, all are based on common sense, a calm approach and, most important of all, education and training so staff are aware of the risks.

While none of these things can guarantee against theft or other attacks on your business, they are guaranteed to help.










ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Naomi Levin
Contributor •

Naomi Levin is a journalist who knows a little bit about a lot of things. She has worked as a sports journalist and is currently a political and general news reporter, in addition to writing for Jeweller.
Metro Diamonds Australia
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