By Larry Spicer
Much like the holiday season, we have all been looking forward to a time when we can return to public spaces, shop in person, and reunite with our communities. While we might not have seen the last of COVID just yet, most businesses have re-opened their doors, thanks to precautionary health and safety measures.
This is, of course, a very exciting time for business owners and community members around the country, but it is also an important moment to remember the security of your business; robberies and thefts still pose a very real threat.
Making sure your jewellery store security is strong early on in the re-opening process is the best way to facilitate an enjoyable in-person experience for both customers and staff—not only in wake of the pandemic, but for years to come.
Here are 12 ways to prevent the types of crimes that often go easily unnoticed.
1. Thwart grab-and-run thefts
While provincial mandates may limit the number of customers permitted in your store at one time, you and your staff should still enforce all the protocols in place to keep your business and inventory safe.
Specifically, to help prevent grab-and-run thefts, be sure to only show one piece of jewellery at a time. Thieves posing as customers may try to make sales associates feel guilty for not letting them try more than one piece on to compare. If this happens, put one on yourself and let the customer compare, side-by-side.
To help enforce this safety precaution as an official store-wide policy, consider posting signage to the affect to inform your customers the practice is a security measure required by their insurance company.
2. Document incidents
Maintaining a list of unusual or suspicious incidents in your store can help you stay a step ahead of potential criminals. Create a running document or spreadsheet that can easily be searched and filtered by date, description, or any other variables you choose to track. Reviewing your surveillance footage daily is much less costly than an insurance deductible or replacing stolen merchandise.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This adage is incredibly true when it comes to tracking suspicious incidents in a jewellery retail store.
3. Share suspicious occurrences
Keeping with the previous point, whenever you encounter any suspicious activity on your premises, you must alert your staff. This will help keep your team on high alert and ensure you are all on the same page regarding security measures. Consider establishing a code word or phrase to alert to your staff when something might be suspicious.
Additionally, be sure to immediately report unusual activity to the police, as well as inform Jewellers Vigilance Canada (JVC). The latter can assist law enforcement in determining whether similar incidents have occurred in your area recently and can even identify thieves before anything happens.
4. Be mindful when opening and closing shop
Many jewellery retail stores are returning to ‘business as usual’ following a period exclusive to curbside pick-ups and/or appointment-only sales. As such, it may be beneficial to review standard practices with your staff to ensure all procedures are done safely. Specifically, a business’s open and close time is often when it is most vulnerable, so extra caution must be practiced.
When opening the store, one associate enters the premises while the other observes. The associate unlocking the facility should immediately lock the door after entering and then conduct a complete walk-through of the premises to look for anything suspicious. The second associate, meanwhile, observes from a safe distance with a cell phone ready to call police if needed.
The second employee should only enter the building after receiving a pre-established ‘all-clear’ notification from the first associate. The door should, again, be locked behind him or her, and the employees can then work together to open the safes and/or vaults, set up display cases, and prepare for the day’s business.
5. Consider mask etiquette
If you have an exterior camera, ask customers to momentarily lower their mask in view of the camera before entering your store. Mask mandates have been in place for more than a year now and are the norm; however, it can be dangerous to allow unidentifiable individuals into your shop.
Whenever possible, have your security cameras get a view of a customer’s face before they enter your store just in case anything happens after they enter. Once inside, do not ask customers to remove their mask, as face shields are still necessary for the health and safety of customers and staff members.
6. Meet and greet every customer
Whether you are operating at full capacity or allowing in only a limited number of customers, it is best to know how many customers, exactly, are in your store at any given time.
Even if you are busy with another guest, go out of your way to offer a quick and friendly greeting to every customer who comes in. Say “hello” to each person and make direct eye contact with them. This immediate acknowledgment could be enough to let a potential thief know your staff is alert and attentive, which makes your store a difficult target when it comes to crime.
Also, keep your eye on groups of three or more customers entering your store. People rarely shop for jewellery in large groups. These individuals could be casing your store or working together to commit a distraction or sneak theft.
7. Ensure your showcases are strong
Make sure the showcases used for displaying valuable merchandise are strong enough to withstand a smash-and-grab robbery. Savvy criminals will case jewellery businesses to determine the easiest path for committing their crimes. They will know the layout of the building, where the most valuable merchandise is located, the exact value in each showcase, and even how much force is needed to break the showcase glass.
By having a well-constructed showcase with resilient glass, you can limit (or even completely prevent) the loss of merchandise during a smash-and-grab robbery
8. Verify every alarm signal
While safes and vaults are critical to limiting the amount of merchandise stolen in burglaries, criminals have proven time and again that, if given enough time, they can compromise the most durable of security equipment. Thus, your alarm—and your relationship with your alarm system provider—is incredibly valuable. Contact your alarm system provider to ensure your alarm is providing the protection your business needs.
9. Ask for multiple forms of ID
When conducting a cheque transaction, make it a policy to require multiple forms of identification, including at least one with a photo. (For additional tips on digital payments, see “Digital threats: Protect your jewellery business from cybercrime.”) Compare signatures carefully from all forms of identification to ensure they match and keep a copy or record of the information.
10. Keep mum about details
Do not post photos anywhere online that reveal the layout of your store or merchandise displays. This includes social media, as well as resources your customers may use to find you, such as Google.
11. Stay updated on industry crimes
Frequently review jewellery industry crimes to keep informed of what’s going on with your fellow jewellers. If you are unsure of where to look, check out JVC’s website as a resource for crime information and assistance.
12. Pack away inventory
Keep as much merchandise as possible in your safe or vault overnight. While this might make opening and closing the business more time consuming, the extra precaution helps ensure your inventory stays safe. No criminal will be fooled by a blanket thrown over a showcase. In fact, this practice makes it appear as though there is something valuable and worth hiding.
No matter whether you are practicing curbside pick-up, appointment-only sales, or ‘business as usual,’ safety protocols must be enforced to ensure your business is protected from potential criminals. Consider hosting a refresher course or overview for your staff to ensure everyone is informed and confident in what their role is in helping to keep your shop safe.
Larry Spicer is vice-president of loss prevention and risk management at Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group in the United States. He has more than 20 years’ experience as a security professional. Comments and questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For resources regarding safety and security when carrying or working with jewellery, visit JewelersMutual.com. For more information on reliable burglar alarm systems, subscribe to the Jewelers Mutual Clarity blog at jewelersmutual.com/clarity-blog. Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group is the only company specializing exclusively in jewellery insurance in Canada and the United States. It is licensed in Canada and all 50 states.