The editors of this respected publication allow me the latitude to draw from my experience in working in the area of loss prevention for the jewelry industry to determine the subject of my article for each issue. I appreciate their trust and look forward to providing articles that will continue to shed light on a variety of relevant loss-prevention topics in the pages of upcoming issues.
When I think about the articles I have already submitted for publication this year, I am struck by the fact that, despite the broad array of potential loss-prevention subjects I could address, I’ve already dedicated several articles to robbery-related subjects. These are the crimes against jewelers that the Jewelers Security Alliance (JSA) and Jewellers Vigilance Canada define as the taking of property by use of force or fear.
I have a good reason for my recurring focus on robbery: My insurance-company’s claims experience and reported jewelry crime loss statistics collected by both the JSA and JVC all indicating the steady growth in robbery-related losses for jewelers in North America. Experienced criminals, especially organized gangs from South America, continue to successfully execute well-planned robberies and have realized increasingly larger financial rewards for their efforts.
In light of this disturbing ongoing concern for everyone who works in the jewelry industry, and given the related potential life safety concerns and traumatic nature of robbery crime, the subject of robbery and the ways to deter it merit the industry’s ongoing and regular attention.
In this article, I’d like to raise industry awareness with regard to the fact that, in the vast majority of these cases, the perpetrators of jewelry-store robberies are not strangers to the premises. They’ve been there before – observing, noting, planning … in short ‘casing’ your operation.
Know the importance of the first impression
Because robbers engage in “casing” their target robbery location before actually performing the robbery, never underestimate the power of the first impression! You and your associates have an opportunity to create in the mind of any would-be robbers a very discouraging perception of the desirability to rob your store. By projecting the right first impression, you could very well compel the criminals to indeed move on to a different target.
Several studies reinforce what we all intrinsically know about first impressions – that is, that they’re very powerful and create perceptions that are hard to overcome. Andrew O’Keeffe, an expert in human instincts and author of Hardwired Humans, explains: "Humans make quick judgments from first impressions and use these quick judgments to classify experiences. Once people have classified their opinion, it's hard to shift that opinion. We judge subsequent events by how we have already classified the information."
If we can assume that criminals mentally classify their potential targets as either “soft” (an easy mark wherein the perceived gains outweigh the perceived risks) or “hard” (wherein the perceived risks outweigh the perceived gains), then every jewelry store owner wants to create a first impression that falls squarely in the “hard” perception category.
Create a bad (in the eyes of the criminal) first impression
There are things you can do to lead a would-be robber to the conclusion that he doesn’t want anything to do with you or your store. Always be consistent and conspicuous about your security practices, including:
a lookout-buddy system for opening and closing the store;
signage reinforcing your policy prohibiting after-hours admittance to the facility;
visible , operating, and strategically placed security cameras;
regular (but not predictable) visits from police or security personnel; and
a consistent practice of making eye contact and greeting every customer who enters the store.
The key is to be ever-vigilant, to recognize when your store is being cased, and to take immediate action. To do so, train your associates to be aware of any and all suspicious activity and encourage them to log these events so they can be shared and discussed with the balance of the staff.
Your store may be a potential robbery target in the process of being “cased” if a customer:
•Appears nervous or fidgety, evades eye contact, and/or avoids interaction with a welcoming associate;
•Asks unusual questions, such as how many employees are working there;
•Is vague about what he or she is looking for;
•Looks around the store, rather than at the jewelry;
•Is outside your normal customer profile (clothing, age, gender, jewelry interests); and/or
•Doesn’t want to give his or her name.
Whenever you suspect that your store is being cased:
•Alert other associates by using a pre-established code word or phrase.
•Make more associates visible on the sales floor.
•Have one associate visibly leave the store to observe from a safe distance. This associate should have a cell phone and appear to be prepared to call police.
•Call the police or mall security and ask them to visit your business as soon as possible.
Robbers are always watching. If they perceive that you’re a well-managed and vigilant organization, and they know that your store associates are “on to them” when they attempt to case your store, the would-be robbers may decide to target someone else.
Finally, don’t forget the power of shared information. If you suspect that your store is being cased, notify your local crime prevention network and the Jewelers Vigilance Committee.