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We can't afford to get complacent about security

Over the past few years, I’ve visited and spoken to many jewellery retailers who have been the victims of crime – ranging from theft to break-ins and armed robberies. I’ve seen too many simple security steps overlooked, ignored or neglected. Jewellery businesses need to take security seriously and continually budget for upgrades and improvements.

When it comes to physical steps to increase security, look at getting your local council involved in putting an attractive barrier in front of your store – such as a bench or flower unit – that prevents people from doing a ram raid.

More and more councils will do it if you agree to pay for part of the bench or flower unit; you can even get a plaque with your name on it – that’s advertising!

The next most critical thing is assessing your CCTV. There are too many situations where the camera only records the tops of the crooks’ heads! Have one camera at a lower level dedicated to the faces of the people coming into the store.

Don’t rely on cheap kits and older analogue systems either. New electronic equipment is no longer expensive. Refer to the police CCTV standards, which are available online, and ensure you meet them.

Make sure you have Mylar security film over the glass of your store front, and on your cabinets too if they aren’t made from laminated glass. This is such a quick, low-cost and effective step, yet a lot of stores still haven’t done it.

The next weak link is pull-down security grilles; chain links can be easily broken. The grille needs to be reinforced by having microswitches monitoring whether the links have been disturbed.

Coupled with that is the fact that a lot of retailers are still not packing all their goods away at night. They think, ‘I’m not going to worry about the silver or watches,’ or that just covering them up is enough, because those are not their most high-value pieces. But often for $1,000 worth of goods that have been left out and then stolen in a break-in, the retailer will be left with $10,000 worth of damage to the store.

"There should always be a place you and your staff can retreat to in case someone comes in with a weapon."

There should always be a place you and your staff can retreat to in case someone comes in with a weapon; many country stores have put CrimSafe doors on their workshops for this reason.

Next, consider a ‘closed door’ policy. Admit people in limited quantities so you don’t have a gang of five coming in, which is typically used for distraction techniques.

When it comes to dealing with suspicious customers, there’s a tip that’s often ignored: only show one piece at a time. If someone wants to see two pieces, hold the second one in your hand and hold it up next to them; if they end up running, your loss is limited.

Spread out your high-value items throughout your store and ask for ID before you show one to a customer. Hang on to the customer’s ID until you get the item back – you can simply explain that it’s a requirement of your insurance policy.

And speaking of insurance, make absolutely sure you have a jeweller’s block policy, as a regular business policy won’t cover all your needs.

Perhaps the most ignored cost-free security measure is code words. If you become concerned when dealing with a customer, you need to alert other staff. You might say: “Georgina, Mrs Brown’s coming in to pick up her ring today, can you get it out?” That would be a phrase that your staff member recognises to mean there’s a problem.

Finally, have weekly meetings with staff to discuss security and record all suspicious incidents. Then, crucially, share these incidents with other members of the trade!

The Victorian branch of the JAA has created WhatsApp groups for jewellery retailers so that they can warn each other immediately if there are incidents going on in their local area.

These are now active in Victoria, South Australia and the ACT but I strongly urge others to get involved and really make this a nationwide effort. You don’t need to be a JAA member to be part of it.

Name: Michael Oboler
Business: Oblo Jewellery
Position: Director
Location: Box Hill North, Victoria
Years in the industry: 45, including 30 in Australia 

Michael is a past chairman of the JAA and its Victorian branch.

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