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Soapbox & Opinions

Talk security, fight crime

Possibly the least favourite aspect of the jewellery trade is the issue of security. Toby Bensimon believes better communication between jewellers could help in the fight against crime.

Although robberies are relatively rare, they are unforgettably traumatic to anyone who has had the misfortune of experiencing one.

Our 40-plus stores are robbed regularly in the form of snatch and grab style robberies – once per fortnight on average. We are robbed after-hours once per year, which involves thieves smashing the front glass and making off with a few hundred dollars worth of jewellery but leaving a $3000 glass bill, and around every two to three years, we have a robbery where burglars gain access to the store and steal anything we do not secure in our safe.

Recently, however, we were robbed by a crew of thieves who used a crude yet effective method to bypass our alarm system and gain entry to our safe. This was the first time in over 40 years that our safe had been accessed and they stole only the high-priced items.

Determined to participate in the police investigation, we began phoning our comrades within the industry who had been robbed to see what had happened to them. Interestingly, we found that the same methods had been applied to no fewer than six of the companies contacted.

The police were not aware of this clear link either as the industry is typically cagey for good reason – reported robberies can encourage further robberies – however, when confronted by overwhelming evidence that a crew was systematically picking us off, we realised that something more had to be done.

The crime was elevated to a serious crime and had a CBD unit assigned to dealing with it. We called in a security-advice team and disseminated the information on upgrading our security to as many jewellers as we could reach, using publications such as Jeweller to get the message out.

Advances in video technology and greater cost effectiveness of modern security mean that police catch the criminals in 80 per cent of the cases now but they are yet to catch this gang. For the record, the thieves poked keyhole cameras through our roof to record our safe combination. How did they do this undetected?

They gained access to the roof during the day when un-alarmed, and shielded our sensors with tape. They then had all night to proceed with the robbery. How did they locate the right spot to put the camera from the roof? One theory is they entered the store as a customer and pinpointed the location with a smartphone.

With what they netted from the jewellers we know, it is likely that they have also been hitting other states and territories using this method and that the police from other states are also unaware.

This lack of communication is making our industry vulnerable to attack. As such, we are throwing around the idea of a database for industry operators to read about and submit robbery information, with access to the database restricted to jewellery store owners and relevant associates. Service stations have a similar system and it looks like we are overdue for one.

For this database to be effective, it will need a champion to kick it off and then someone to manage it. The JAA would be the logical choice for such an endeavour as the member base is both extensive and active. In order to get the ball rolling, I would be happy to commission a website designer to put it together and set-up the necessary security gateways before handing it over to the JAA to administer the site.

I believe that the site would require minimal administration as all posts and messages would be user contributions. The advantage of having the JAA oversee this will be that it will remain an impartial source of the best and most relevant information on jewellery-store security.

People contributing to the site will be able to post pictures and videos of thieves that they have recorded and the damage that has been caused to their shops. They will also be able to search for crimes with congruencies to any committed against them through the addition of key word searches, which would have led police to confirm the criminal link discussed earlier in the case of the spate of robberies in WA.
This would have expedited the allocation of more resources to the effort of stopping them.

Considering the considerable loss to our industry at the hands of this crew alone, this project would be able to mitigate the likelihood of future events from occurring against our industry, which clearly needs more protection, communication and solidarity in stemming the flow of attacks against us.

If you would like to participate in this project, drop me an email at If enough interest is reached, we will launch it this month.

Name: Toby Bensimon
Business: SHiels Jewellers
Position: director
Location: WA

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