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How to create a strong jewellery robbery defence

An increased number of jewellery robberies in victoria is forcing retailers to evaluate and upgrade their security measures. EMILY MOBBS investigates some best-practice strategies.

The spate of brazen jewellery robberies in Melbourne this year has placed security practices in the spotlight. As reported on page 51, the game has changed amidst a disturbing new trend of armed robberies in broad daylight. To ensure the safety of staff and customers, business owners across the state are examining current security protocols.

In any attack during business hours, safeguarding people is undoubtedly the top priority but there are plenty of other reasons for jewellery retailers to boost their security, including minimising property damage and the inevitable rise in insurance premiums that so often follows robberies.

There is concern that a higher number of robberies will see insurance premiums increase across the industry even for retailers who haven’t been robbed, which means the advantages of jewellers upgrading their security extend far beyond their own stores.

Ed Vincent, underwriting services manager of insurance broker Arthur J Gallagher, says premium increases have been generally applied to regions where the highest incidence of burglary and armed-hold-up claims have been made over the past one to two years, namely in Victoria.

Vincent doesn’t provide specifics on price rises, stating that the figure depends on various factors including additional security measures that have been implemented following a loss.

Similarly, Security Consulting Group (SCG) senior risk advisor Mason Scott says demonstrating best-practice security protocol is key to obtaining favourable premiums.

“Our experience suggests that any industry experiencing higher than normal insurance claims may be subject to critical review from insurers,”Scott explains. “Where business owners can demonstrate to their insurer that all reasonable steps have been taken to reduce the possibility of a claim then this may equate to lower premiums.”

Initial steps

Conducting a security audit is the first step in safeguarding any workplace, according to Australian Security Industry Association (ASIAL) CEO Bryan de Caires.

He explains that engaging a licensed security consultant to undertake a security audit of the store will identify vulnerabilities and allow jewellers to focus on implementing a strategy to mitigate those risks.

Scott also points to the importance of security audits, stating, “While it may sound cliche´, you can’t manage a problem if you don’t understand it.”

Scott adds that effective security relies on designing systems in multiple layers so that these layers can collectively deter, detect, delay and respond to crime.

“A one-off single review may seem like an unnecessary expense when considered in isolation but when compared against the direct and indirect costs involved if a store suffers a violent robbery, the up-front expense of a professional audit will ultimately cost less.”

In terms of equipment, de Caires says there is a myriad of options now available.

“The security industry is continually developing new technologies and ways of securing retail premises,” he states, offering examples such as smoke screens that can  fill a store with smoke and prevent visibility in seconds, strobe lights, piercing sirens, DNA sprays, time-release safes, seismic sensors and man traps – two interlocking doors at a store’s entrance that can seal in a suspicious person.

Victoria Police detective inspector Kerin Moloney, who is overseeing jewellery offences state-wide, says retailers can make any number of security upgrades to their stores.

“From a policing perspective, it’s really important that there be high-quality CCTV. Together with this, many stores have installed magnetic door locks and airlock systems to stop customers entering their stores unseen,” he explains.

What of the notion that security can damage customer experience?

“Some retailers have been concerned this might a ect their sales but my understanding from jewellers who have installed these types of systems is that they haven’t seen any deterioration of retail sales,” Moloney adds.

Making the investment

Garry Holloway, managing director of Holloway Diamonds, presents a strong case for investing in advanced security measures.

The jeweller has spent more than $50,000 this year to make his two Melbourne stores more secure. Modi cations include installing metal bars on doors, air locks and bullet-proof glass as well as smoke- screen units and debilitating sirens.

Holloway’s Canterbury store was robbed twice in early 2017 but when robbers attempted to break into his Brighton store in April, they retreated after an armed security guard started walking towards the front door. It has been acknowledged that tightened security measures prevented the execution of this daylight robbery.

Another store in Melbourne that has invested in new security is IMP Jewellery in Toorak. The business, which had two attacks in the space of three months, introduced a buzzer-release system where customers gain entry only once staff have provided access.

IMP Jewellery co-owner Denis Kelleway dismisses the suggestion that a security entrance might hinder business. Instead, he believes the opposite is true and that customers generally feel better when security is good.

“I think the buzzer-release system adds credibility,” Kelleway says. “It certainly lets customers know they’re walking into a serious jeweller and it might even give buyers of that level peace of mind that they’re secure and that people can’t just rush in when they’re in the store.”

Toughened glass used for display cabinets is also a common prevention method that can be implemented. According to de Caires, several options exist such as bullet proof and blast proof glass, although he accepts that display can su er for some thicker glass types, which can measure up to 25mm in thickness.

Toughened glass, typically 8-10mm thick, can stop smash-and-grab attempts. “The glass doesn’t break as quickly as they would like and as a result they flee before authorities arrive, with little or no merchandise,” de Caires says.?
Could an unexpected delay or inability to smash the glass frustrate offenders and put staff at risk of assaults?

“I am not aware of any evidence to support the claim that toughened-glass display cabinets expose staff to greater danger,”de Caires states.

Victoria Police detective inspector Shayne Pannell, who has been involved in the jewellery-related investigations in Melbourne, offers similar sentiments.

“The offenders want to spend as little time as possible inside the premises, and there is research to show that they aren’t willing to wait and will just move on,” Pannell says, adding, “There is always an element of risk but the frustration is more in relation to the cabinet not breaking and o enders not doing their research properly.”

The value of CCTV

Like Moloney, Pannell emphasises the value of high-quality CCTV both inside and outside stores.

“CCTV has come a long way in the past five years and the imagery they can give us – even if the o ender is masked – provides a lot more to work with than if we conduct an investigation using just a description of the o ender,” Pannell says. “I can put two people in a room to see the same thing and I’ll get two different descriptions; the CCTV is almost the arbiter of what’s right and what’s wrong.”

It’s a common view that CCTV only helps police after a robbery has occurred and isn’t useful as a deterrent; however, Pannell says the equipment is essential regardless.

“CCTV can still be a deterrent but it depends upon the criminal,” Pannell says. “Yes, it can’t identify the faces of those who are fully masked but there are other uses for CCTV that we’re using these days. If an incident did occur, then I would far prefer to be attending the scene if there’s CCTV available.”

Upgrades can be cost-prohibitive for independent businesses and Moloney is quick to point out that security is not just about spending money on new equipment. Adopting proper in-store procedures and ensuring staff are trained accordingly are two techniques of paramount importance for maintaining the safety of employees.

“The ultimate responsibility of the jeweller is to protect the welfare of staff and customers by implementing procedural methods or security upgrades,” Moloney says. “Even if retailers are not in a position to install strong target-hardening measures, it’s most important that they at least discuss with their staff  what procedures will take place if a robbery does occur. This could be as simple as ensuring staff know where to go and what to do if a suspicious person enters the store.”

As Scott says, staff can be both a business’ best security control and a business’ greatest vulnerability.

“Investment in training and awareness programs for staff on how to identify suspicious activity and how best to react in a critical situation is very important,” he states, adding that retailers are recommended to conduct initial training that covers all major topics, followed by a condensed refresher on an annual basis.

Finally, Scott says that security measures don’t all need to be physical in nature.

“A store layout that promotes natural surveillance and includes good lighting, clear warning signs and defined private spaces will assist in establishing a subtle, psychological deterrent to crime,” he explains. “Likewise, a well-organised, local retail community that actively shares information, is alert to suspicious activity and has established relationships with local police is likely to detect and report incidents that may allow early intervention.”

It’s a poignant point, which drives the notion that robbery prevention and management is best conducted with a multi-layered approach. The jewellery industry may always be a target for robbery but a combination of tightened security measures and support among retailers will ultimately provide strong defence.

Emily Mobbs • Former Editor

Emily Mobbs is editor of Jeweller. She has more than 8 years' experience in trade publishing and reports on various aspects of the jewellery industry.

SAMS Group Australia

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