Security Revisited: Response and Rebuttal

Usually the communication in a magazine is one way – from the writer to the readers. Sometimes, though, the readers respond. One reader who responded to a recent column of mine was Ron Harder, president of Jewelers Mutual. Ron took issue with a number of things I wrote in July when I lamented the lack of new thinking about security for jewelry sales representatives. Ron’s letter appears here, followed by my reaction. I appreciate the letter and thank him for the effort he put into it.

Let’s get our traveling salespeople some help? That was the challenge presented by Frank Dallahan in his “Counterpoint” column in the July 1998 issue of JCK. The challenge is admirable, but Dallahan needs to expand his scope. He states that “technology exists today to more than adequately secure an automobile against jewelry thieves.” If that were true, we believe traveling salespeople would already have installed the equipment, reduced their insurance premiums, and reaped the rewards.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. This is a dangerous time for those who travel with jewelry. While there has been improvement in some parts of the country, we are seeing more violence and losses elsewhere [see “Harmed Guards,” p. 88]. Compounding that is the attitude by some police departments and salespeople that “it won’t happen here.” If you travel with jewelry, loss prevention is a never-ending commitment, a 24-hour-a-day task.

We at Jewelers Mutual agree with Dallahan’s point that technology can help. We would add, “But it’s not a panacea!” Technology won’t stop a thief from stealing a jewelry line left on the seat of an unattended vehicle. Dallahan might say, “Everyone knows that!” Maybe so, yet that’s a recurring mistake in the industry. And even if you could afford to equip your car with shatterproof and bulletproof glass, your jewelry line still would not be safe. A creative thief can easily obtain duplicate keys to a car and simply wait for an opportunity to open the door or drive it away.

The trunk of a vehicle is a more secure location for a jewelry line, but only if additional physical security barriers are installed to prevent the simple removal of the line. Only under these circumstances, and with proper insurance coverage, should a sample line be left in an unattended vehicle for a short period. Even these systems can be defeated or the car itself can be stolen.

Dallahan states that a sales rep must have the line “in his/her grasp” to have insurance coverage. That is incorrect. Nowhere in the insurance policy offered by Jewelers Mutual is there such a requirement. Perhaps he was referring to the exclusion for an unattended vehicle loss that is stated as follows in a Jewelers Mutual policy:

“We do not cover property for theft from, in, or on a vehicle that is not attended, unless endorsed to the policy. An attended vehicle has a person actually in or on the vehicle. This person must be you, your employee, or a person whose sole duty is to attend to the vehicle.”

Even so, thieves aren’t limited to attacking unattended vehicles. Increasingly, they force confrontations. They deliberately bump a salesperson’s car to get the driver to stop or use several vehicles to force the vehicle off the road. In greater frequency, criminals simply use guns in an armed robbery.

Technology, alone, will not adequately protect a traveling salesperson or secure an automobile against a thief. It takes a combination of physical security, electronic security, consistent use of security procedures, and an ever-vigilant salesperson to avoid these losses. Even then, not all losses can be avoided.

Which brings us to the insurance cost for the exposure. In most instances when a salesperson has a loss, the entire line is taken. Compare that with the risk experienced by a retailer, wholesaler, or manufacturer who has property on premises distributed among a number of locked showcases or protected by a safe or vault, alarms, and another security system. When you compare carrying half a million dollars of jewelry in a suitcase in a car with the same amount in a store or business, it’s obvious who has the greater risk and therefore pays the higher premium.

Dallahan says there hasn’t been a new thought in security for traveling salespeople in 50 years. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Crimes against traveling salespeople have changed significantly during that time, with the thieves’ tactics escalating from mere distraction to overt theft and robbery. Jewelers Mutual’s first video on traveling security was created 14 years ago and recently was replaced with a revised version. The thieves’ tactics have changed from mere distraction, which alert salespeople learn to avoid, to more overt theft. The new version of the video highlights new procedures and tactics as well as new technology (e.g., a tire device that permits the driver to continue to safety even when the tire deflates). In fact, cell phones have come into general use only in the last five years.

Jewelers’ Security Alliance (JSA) conducts training sessions for traveling salespeople across the country and recently participated in a first-ever police training program [in Los Angeles] that will be conducted in other parts of the country next year. JSA and other security companies are hired by show and convention organizers to help protect the exhibitors and buyers by using sophisticated surveillance equipment and trained observers. The result: fewer thefts. JSA shares information about criminal activities with the FBI and police departments across the country to assist in arresting, prosecuting, and jailing these thieves.

We wish there was one magic tool that could protect those who travel with jewelry for a living. Unfortunately, that’s not the real world.

We receive information about new technology on a regular basis. Some of it’s very promising; some isn’t. If there’s new technology out there that can enhance the security of the sample lines in a vehicle, please share that with us so we can pass on potential improvements to others in the industry. Jewelers Mutual will continue to do what we can to help salespeople reduce their risk of loss and, in the end, reduce their insurance costs.

Ronald R. Harder President and CEO Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co.

I’m using my column this month to respond to some of Ron’s points:

  1. Yes, the scope of the arguments about security needs to be expanded. The point of the column was to draw attention to the real problem that exists. Contributing to it are outdated insurance requirements and the lack of a cohesive organization for salespersons to lobby for change.

  2. Ron says if it were true that technology exists to more than adequately secure a car, traveling salespeople would already have installed it. His emphasis is off target. This is a company issue, not an individual salesperson’s. Sales personnel are not organized into a cohesive group like the members of Jewelers Mutual. Consequently, they have no leverage to push for change. Two firms I’ve worked for, ArtCarved and Krementz & Co., both implemented effective systems for fully protecting not only the trunk, but also the car itself. Both companies reaped the rewards of lower insurance costs, one through self-insuring and the other through better experience.

  3. Ron says if you travel with jewelry, loss prevention is a never-ending commitment, a 24-hour-a-day task. I agree wholeheartedly. That is precisely why more needs to be done.

  4. “Technology can help, but it’s not a panacea. Technology won’t stop a thief from stealing a jewelry line left on the seat of an unattended vehicle,” Ron writes. I say: You bet technology can help. I also agree technology is no cure-all. However, the more difficult it is to break into a car and the less obvious traveling salespeople make themselves, the more likely thieves will go elsewhere. Of course, an alternative is for the thieves to become more aggressive. I don’t believe that anyone would argue for a status quo approach to the scary change of tactics by the bad guys.

  5. Mistakes in judgment or in fact will always be with us. If you don’t set the alarm in a jewelry store or close the safe or lock the front door, or if you leave a sample line on the seat of a car, attended or not, you will pay the consequences.

  6. Ron writes that a creative thief can easily obtain duplicate keys to a car and simply wait for an opportunity to open the door and drive away. In this scenario, it doesn’t sound as if the selected security system is a very good one. An effective alarm system must be turned off before the car is started. If the car is started without the alarm being disabled, the alarm should sound – in high decibels. Even if the thief gets away, the system should have a gas cut-off, so he can’t get very far and have an opportunity to cut through the specially protected trunk lid.

  7. About the matter of insurance coverage: Is a vehicle unattended if a salesperson walks to the cashier at a gas station with the line left in a protected trunk? Or is the salesperson required to take the line out of the trunk and carry it to the cashier’s window? Or how about carrying the line into a rest room? I believe that these situations, which unnecessarily call attention to the salesperson, are required by insurance carriers. In an effectively protected trunk, the risk of loss is substantially reduced, as my personal experience at ArtCarved and Krementz verifies.

  8. Yes, thieves are getting more confrontational. They bump a salesperson’s car or use several vehicles to force a car off the road, or simply use guns in an armed robbery. But this doesn’t mean salespeople are powerless. Knowledge is power. The Jewelers’ Security Alliance and Jewelers Mutual have done a fine job alerting the industry to the thieves’ latest tactics. They’ve also provided valuable support to law-enforcement groups. And, as Ron correctly points out, cell phones have dramatically improved security over the past five years.

  9. I concede I exaggerated when I claimed there hadn’t been a new thought about security in 50 years. Nevertheless, as Ron acknowledges, it took 14 years to develop a new educational video.

  10. Yes, JSA conducts training sessions for traveling salespeople and helps with security at the trade shows. And it does a good job. However, it must be pointed out that most jewelry business is not done at the shows. It is done every day in every city and town throughout the country.

  11. “We wish there was one magic tool that could protect those who travel with jewelry. Unfortunately, that’s not the real world,” Ron writes. I agree. What I’m trying to do is focus attention on a problem that affects the whole industry, not just traveling salespeople, who lack a unified voice to lobby for better security. Everyone needs to get involved in the search for better solutions, and to be involved on a continuing basis.

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