Friday, 9 August 2013

Three minute burglary

It’s only three minutes. What could possibly go wrong?

How much time is three minutes? Most of us think it’s not very long. It’s just about enough to brush your teeth, read this piece, or listen to Abba’s “Waterloo”, but not much else. It’s hardly enough time for anything to happen, especially something bad, right? Wrong.

Recent statistics from Jewelers Mutual, the leading insurer of jewellers in North America, clearly show that the most common cause of loss for their clients is the three minute burglary. This type of loss typically involves retail jewellers though of course any business can be affected. In this scenario, a gang will enter a store late at night, usually by breaking down the front door, though sometimes via other routes such as a common wall or roof entrance, and remove any goods left outside the safe. There is typically no attempt made to break into safes or deactivate the alarm system. The criminals aim to be gone in as short a time as possible, typically three minutes or less, usually a short enough time to avoid police or guard response, so there is no need for them to behave in a covert manner. As well as the loss of stock the business will typically suffer smashed doors, windows, showcases and security equipment. This sort of damage often results in a business being unable to reopen for days, or sometimes even weeks.

In a few of these incidents the thieves have even attempted to remove the safe by attaching it to a chain and towing it out of the store using a truck. As you might imagine, dragging a safe weighing several thousand pounds at speed through a jewellery store causes enormous damage both to furniture and fixtures, and also to delicate jewellery inside the safe. Even if the safe is not successfully removed for later attack, the damage has already been done. The result can be a huge immediate financial loss for the jeweller, compounded by a significant interruption of business.

What can be done to prevent this kind of loss? In the final analysis, if someone wants to break into your store, there is not much you can do about it. However, if you can make the target unattractive enough, you may be able to persuade them to look elsewhere. The first thing to consider is your perimeter protection. Are your store’s entrances and windows properly secured with good quality anti-burglary locks? Would installing bars or anti shatter film on your windows slow down a break-in attempt? Does your alarm system feature glass break sensors? Anything you can do to make this type of attack less likely, or to slow it down if it does happen, is worthwhile.

The next thing to do is to make sure you put as much away in the safe as you can. Don’t give the thieves a reason to break in! If you can’t put as much as you would like away at night, replace your safe with a bigger one and/or buy a second safe and have it bolted into the floor if you can. A really good anti-burglary safe is one of the best investments in physical security you will ever make. Keep the safe out of sight if you can, ideally in a room separate from the selling floor. Do NOT cover your showcases even if they are empty; doing so suggests they have something in them that you do not wish anyone to see. Remove goods from showcases and put them in drawers or otherwise out of sight if you cannot put them into the safe. Do not assume that thieves can tell the difference between white gold and silver giftware when they look into your store; your bangles collection may be all that is required to inspire a burglary attempt.

Finally, review your security system. Does the alarm system cover every room of your premises, including kitchens or washrooms, as well as roof spaces? Burglars have been known to break into less well protected adjacent units and enter via common walls, often made of nothing more than drywall, or cut holes in steel roofs. Early detection may prevent a serious loss. Do you have a recording camera system which would capture images of intruders? If not, consider installing one. And, of course, when it comes down to it, the single most important component of any security system is you; it has no purpose if you do not respond when it indicates a break in may be in progress. Make sure the monitoring station has the right contact details so that they can contact you and your staff overnight. There has been more than one case of the alarm company attempting to contact a jeweller without success because of inaccurate phone numbers being kept on file.

As insurance brokers we have an absolute interest in helping our clients avoid losses. If you are one of our clients and wish us to help you review your security at any time, please call your account executive and set up an appointment. We will be glad to help. If you are not a client, now is the best time to contact us to discuss your insurance requirements; a call tomorrow may be a day too late.

Michael Barnard, CAIB
Account Executive


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