Security Beat

RETAILERS ALSO HIT BY OFF-PREMISES ROBBERIES

A jeweler is robbed at gunpoint of $50,000 in goods while returning a rental car at Los Angeles International Airport. Another jeweler is hit for $250,000 in loose stones in a mall parking lot. A third is choked and robbed in an underground garage. Just typical cases of traveling jewelry salespeople and gem dealers being robbed on the road? No, the victims in these cases are all retail jewelers, from independents to chains to mom-and-pops.

Jewelry retailers are all too aware of the risks posed by in-store robberies. However, few retailers attend to proper security after they leave their stores. Retailers must realize that when they carry merchandise outside of the store, they face the same life-threatening risks that traveling jewelry salespeople face on the road every day.

Every owner, manager and employee should take a close look at a few recent off-premises robberies (detailed below) so they can apply the security lessons from these crimes to their own operations.

Retailers are carrying goods off-premises with surprising frequency in a great variety of situations. Among the most common are buying trips, delivering merchandise, hosting trunk shows, moving goods to another branch and returning home. Here are several recent cases.

BUYING MERCHANDISE

Some retailers buy merchandise in person at wholesale jewelry centers, particularly in major cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami. Other retailers buy at delivery jewelry shows. Regardless of where merchandise is bought, to then carry it by hand may set the stage for an off-premises loss.

Buying trip #1: In September 1996, a retail jeweler from Northern California made purchases in Los Angeles. The victim then returned a rental car to the airport in Los Angeles for a return flight. As the jeweler returned the rental car at 6:30 p.m., three suspects got out of their own car nearby. One suspect served as the lookout and two held handguns. They demanded the retailer’s bags, which were handed over quickly. The suspects escaped with $50,000 in merchandise. Police investigation revealed the retailer’s right rear tire had been punctured but did not go flat.

Buying trip #2: In June 1996, a jewelry retailer from out of town bought jewelry from wholesalers in Los Angeles. He then left the purchases in the trunk of his vehicle in a nearby parking lot while conducting other business. When he returned to the car at 6 p.m., he found his trunk pried open and $40,000 worth of jewelry taken.

Security advice: When buying merchandise, have it shipped to your store.

MOVING, DELIVERING MERCHANDISE

Case study: Every week the owner of a retail jewelry store in Oregon took merchandise to be repaired at a contractor’s shop. In March 1996, while driving with his repair goods back to his own store at 6:30 p.m., one of his tires went flat. When he pulled to the shoulder of the road to look at the tire, a car stopped about 200 feet ahead. A man got out, raised the car hood and went into the woods. While the jeweler filled his tire with canned air, someone removed his bag, which contained 48 packages of merchandise worth $100,000, from behind the driver’s seat of his car.

Security advice: A flat tire or radiator trouble is a red flag that South American gangs are after you. When you transport goods, don’t stop by the side of a road, know where to keep goods in a vehicle and be wary of distractions and unattended vehicles.

TRUNK SHOWS

Retailers use trunk shows, remount shows and special events to create sales and excitement. But they also create added risks. This occurs because of the presence of unusually high-value goods for a declared time. When the show is over, the goods are again exposed to greater risk. Even if you use only limited in-store publicity for your special events, assume that South American gangs will find out about them. The more broadly you advertise your event, the more likely a target your store becomes.

Branch-to-branch move #1: At 11:30 p.m., after a diamond show at branch store in California, a lone armed guard hired by a jewelry chain was moving jewelry to another branch store for a show the next day. As the guard carried one case in each hand to a parking lot, he was approached by a car carrying four or five South American gang members. One suspect got out, pointed a gun at the guard and said, “We know you are armed. Don’t reach for the gun or we’ll kill you.” Another suspect took the guard’s gun. This loss was reportedly in the million-dollar range.

Branch-to-branch move #2: At 10:15 o’clock one October evening, a store manager and an armed guard in Washington state transported loose diamonds from one mall branch of a retail jewelry chain to another. They traveled in separate vehicles. Upon arrival at the second store, both parked and the manager removed the case containing the diamonds from his trunk. Eight to 10 male South American gang members ran up from three directions, forced the guard and manager to the ground and took the diamonds. The suspects slashed the tires of the cars of several witnesses and handcuffed the guard with his own cuffs. At least five suspects were seen carrying semiautomatic handguns. The reported loss was $250,000.

Security advice: If you use your own armed guard, he or she must be allowed to focus exclusively on armed security services and should not have hands, gun and attention limited by carrying goods. Consider armored courier services using multiple guards.

TAKING MERCHANDISE HOME

Because of the many dangerous incidents that have occurred, JSA strongly advises retailers not to take home merchandise (other than personal items). By taking it home, you place your family at risk. A jeweler shouldn’t even look like he or she is bringing goods home. A recent case illustrates how one jeweler’s life was put on the line.

Case study: In July 1996, a California jeweler left his business carrying a heavy satchel and drove directly home. He parked in an underground carport around 7 p.m. and exited to the sidewalk to enter his condominium. South American gang members – one with a gun – confronted the jeweler, held him in a chokehold against a wall and took his satchel, which didn’t even contain any jewelry.

Security advice: Do not take jewelry home; never even look like you are taking merchandise home.

All retailers and their employees who ever carry jewelry off-premises should read and follow recommendations in the JSA Manual of Jewelry Security, 1996-1997. See Chapter 5, “Security For Traveling Salespersons.”

The Jewelers’ Security Alliance is a non-profit trade association founded in 1883 which has as its sole purpose the reduction of crime against the jewelry industry. More than 13,000 jewelry retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers are members of JSA and, as such, receive the 152-page JSA Manual of Jewelry Security, bulletins on dangerous jewelry criminals, unlimited access to expert JSA security advice and other benefits. For membership information, contact JSA, Six E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017; (800) 537-0067 or (212) 687-0328.