High-end jewelry and precious gems top the list of targets for organized and opportunistic criminals. Grab-and-run losses are all too common in the jewelry industry. Jewel thieves typically use overt and covert surveillance to gather intelligence before committing their crime. They rely on speed, distraction, store layout, and lax security procedures. While it may be nearly impossible to prevent every jewelry store burglary, robbery, and theft, implementing crime prevention strategies can help reduce the opportunity for theft and reduce the loss amount.
The Basic Terminology
Burglary occurs when thieves break into a closed store with the intent to steal merchandise.
Robbery is the unlawful taking of merchandise by force or fear when a store is open for business.
Theft crimes occur when a store is open for business but without the use of force or fear.
Prevention Planning at the Store Level
The layout of a store is important. Design and layout can help to improve security by hindering and slowing down thieves. Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company offers several recommendations:
- Designing the store so customers must walk around showcases to reach the door rather than have a straight path to the exit.
- Distributing high-value merchandise among several cases located as far as possible from the exit.
- Arranging obstacles, such as other showcases or furniture, between high-value merchandise and the exit.
- Locking showcases after removing or returning items, even if only walking away for a short time or going to a second showcase for an item. Unlocked showcases make it easy for thieves to grab items and run out the door.
- Keeping every slot in display trays filled with merchandise or markers, in order to be able to tell if something is missing.
Prevention Planning at the Employee Level
Hiring procedures and employee training further helps to prevent and mitigate theft. Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company suggests:
- Performing reference checks and background checks (criminal history, motor vehicles records, credit checks, and drug testing) before hiring.
- Providing extensive training as to store protocols, loss prevention procedures, and emergency response procedures such as:
- Serving one customer at a time and showing only one item at a time. If thieves can get their hands on several high-priced items, they can easily grab all of them and run out of the store. It only takes a few seconds.
- Asking for ID. Keeping the customer’s driver’s license or other form of identification on the counter when showing items won’t bother a legitimate customer, but will make a thief very uncomfortable.
- Staying alert and focused. Thieves may use arguments or other commotion to distract employees, then they make their move.
- Limiting access to keys and safe combinations.
- Ensuring at least two employees are present during store opening and closing.
- Adhering to written protocols outlining the entire inventory process.
Preventing Burglaries at Night
Protecting a jewelry store from robberies during the day with staff present is one challenge, ensuring a jewelry store is secure when closed is another. Basic recommendations include:
- Placing merchandise in a safe or vault when closed for business. If the safe or vault cannot contain all merchandise, place lower-valued items in a locked cabinet or drawer, out of sight from criminals.
- Removing all jewelry from show windows at night.
- Not covering showcases. This gives criminals the impression there’s something worth stealing.
- Using UL-listed burglary-resistant glazing material on windows, doors and showcases.
- Verifying the alarm system is on and working properly. Alarm systems should be checked and maintained annually by professionals and tested regularly by owners.
- Providing the alarm service company with cell phone contact numbers and keys to the premises if they offer guard response services, so when they respond to an alarm, they can conduct a thorough investigation of the interior and exterior premises.
According to the Jewelers’ Security Alliance, jewelry store thefts are on the rise. Although no single strategy can guarantee the prevention of crime, a combination of strategies can help to either prevent or mitigate losses. Awareness, vigilance, training, and security measures can be a jewelry store owner’s best friend.