Facing The Unmentionable

By: George Holmes, editor-in-chief

Offer jewelers the choice of attending a seminar on how to sell more product or one on how to improve store security and there’s no contest. They’ll choose the one on sales. That choice is made even though one great sale may make you feel good for a day or a week or maybe a month, while one major robbery or burglary may wipe out the business. It also may send the jeweler to the hospital or the cemetery.

This isn’t an argument to knock sales training, which obviously is critically important. But so is proper security. Yet it sometimes seems as if only the people who have been robbed, beaten or psychologically traumatized really pay attention.

It’s plain to see that crime against jewelers should be a concern of all jewelers. The “It can’t happen to me” or “It won’t happen to me” defense just isn’t a valid excuse for not taking basic, sensible precautions to protect yourself, your staff, your customers and your property.

The Jewelers’ Security Alliance knows the facts. Almost 60% of all crime against jewelers could be prevented if only jewelers would take the right preventive measures, according to JSA’s John Kennedy. This is a staggering figure. It says that almost two in every three attacks on jewelers don’t have to succeed. And the price to pay for this reward is little more than vigilance.

Why are adequate security precautions so widely ignored? One answer has to be that too many people still harbor the “It can’t happen to me” belief. Which is crazy. It can. Another answer probably is that security, while it prevents something negative happening, doesn’t show up as a positive on any profit and loss statement. It’s like insurance; you pay up in anticipation that something bad may happen. Of course you’re delighted to have the insurance when disaster strikes, but if year after year goes by without such disaster, you come to resent paying those premiums. Not a good attitude, but one that’s understandable.

Then there’s a third answer to this question about security. Too many jewelers pay too little attention to crime prevention because the subject scares them. One way to keep the scare level down is to close the mind to the possibility of attack and all the horror it involves. But that is a foolish course of action for any truly thinking person.

There are many good reasons why crime prevention should be a primary concern – not just in the abstract, but in every single facet of every jewelry store’s operation. Consider what JSA’s John Kennedy wrote in a comprehensive report on crime in last August’s JCK. The average loss from a robbery is $172,000. Worse than the physical loss of goods is the fact that criminals used violence in more than half the robberies of jewelry stores in 1994. What’s even more disturbing is that the level of violence seems to escalate each year. The lucky ones are mugged and tied up. The unlucky ones are shot, pistol-whipped, stabbed or sexually assaulted.

Burglary losses, though they involve no physical harm, can be financially devastating. The average dollar loss is $88,000 for each incident and the total often runs into the high six figures.

Given facts like these, it’s hard to see why jewelers don’t clamor week in and week out for help in putting together the best possible crime prevention plan. They don’t, I believe, because the sheer horror of crime puts it in some unmentionable category, like a death in the family or some other very private matter. But crime prevention needs less private introspection and more public attention. Everyone is in the same boat. Common effort is the best defense.

This means open talk about crime. It means cooperative efforts to forestall it. It means putting crime prevention in proper perspective – namely as a number one concern which requires a regular day-to-day commitment. It does not mean that crime prevention should become an obsession or an excuse for the inexpert ownership and handling of firearms.

Perhaps most of all it means that jewelers should support and listen very carefully to our industry’s own crime-busting agency, the Jewelers’ Security Alliance. John Kennedy and his crew can help you in ways you probably don’t believe. We are very, very fortunate to have this service; not to use it really is a crime of its own.