Simon Wilson, Managing Director of security consultancy StoneHawk Ltd, in an interview with Jewellery Outlook Editor David Brough, outlines steps retail jewellers should take to reduce risks of “smash & grab” raids on their premises when the lockdown eases.
Simon, will the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the UK population raise risks of “smash & grab” assaults on jewellers when the lockdown eases?
There is growing intelligence to suggest that this will be the case.
Just as we have seen a dramatic increase in scams during the lockdown, many elements of the criminal world that specialise in fast-paced and intimidating robberies, have been unable to adapt to online crime during the lockdown.
Both the individual criminals and the larger, more organised gangs will be looking to recoup their lost “earnings” as soon as their target high-end retail brands open.
This could mean that they are prepared to take greater risks against stores that they will see as vulnerable due to potentially lower staff numbers and the freedom to wear face masks to conceal their identity.
What type of jewellery and watches are targeted by smash and grab thieves?
In 2019 the major initiative against crime in the Jewellery, Antiques and Fine Art Trades ‘SaferGems’ reports that there was a big jump in focus from watches to jewellery.
In the past four years, prestige watches have been the most sought-after items.
However, in 2019 SaferGems recorded £1.4m of prestige watches stolen – just 19% of the total value.
The men’s Rolex range have always been the most favoured of watch brands for criminals, but increased security and awareness by the stores that stock Rolex has also seen many of the other high-end watch brands targeted.
In the UK, there have been some significant value robberies on stores and at family homes for British Asian gold, especially around times of celebration.
Although the following statistics are not exhaustive, SaferGems provides a strong annual indicator of crime nationally. In 2019 they recorded 43 x robberies/smash & grab raids with approx. £7.1 million worth of goods stolen.
How should retail jewellers plan ahead of the easing of the lockdown, in order to reduce risks of smash & grab when they reopen?
It is essential that adequate preparation is done prior to re-opening.
Taking effective adjustments now, will mean that retailers can relax some of them at a later date as we see how the “new normal” plays out.
Retailers must ensure that they continue to make themselves much less of a target.
How will they open / close with fewer staff and still stay safe/ aware? How will breaks be covered with fewer staff and social distancing? Will the location of high-value stock displays and where / how in the store the stock is shown to the customers, need to be changed?
Ensure that all lighting, CCTV, security fog/smoke, synthetic DNA sprays, doors and cabinet locks are in working order.
Are the panic fobs that the staff wear charged / have they had their batteries replaced?
It is worth spending a day or two in your closed store to work through all these aspects.
Prior to re-opening, retailers must liaise with their insurance companies to make sure that the changes that are planned keep them covered.
Plan for the worst. On the assumption that a staff member will be exposed to COVID-19, how will the retail operation continue if all colleagues then have to self-isolate?
When jewellery shops finally do reopen, what immediate steps in-store should retailers take to protect themselves?
Be vigilant. If a staff member is to greet customers at the door, then whilst they are offering gloves, hand sanitiser, a mask etc… take time to be aware of your surroundings and the behaviour of people outside.
Make sure that all staff know the key words / phrases to alert them to suspicious behaviour.
This is a tough one, and many people have a varied thought on it, but if practicable, ask that customers show their face to a CCTV camera.
If the worst does happen in the form of a robbery, create distance from the aggressor/s, show your hands to show that you are not a threat and comply with all requests made.
When it is safe to do so, press your panic alarm and alert the police.
Check on your colleagues / members of the public and preserve the scene for forensics.
There will be an understanding and an expectation by customers to see stores acting responsibly in regard to protective measures for COVID-19.
Many of the new procedures, store layout and challenges will be very uncomfortable for jewellers who have spent years creating a fantastic environment and customer experience.
It is paramount that we all adapt to these changes as the lockdown is lifted.
Remain vigilant at all times, use your sixth sense – if it does not feel right, it probably is not.
Wishing you all the very best of health — and a strong return to business.
Simon Wilson, Managing Director
‘As a former Metropolitan Police officer, I have long dedicated my career to ensuring people’s safety and security.
Since leaving the service, I have continued to build on my expertise in high-security and counter measures and have worked with a range of prestige organisations and businesses that are involved in this challenging and demanding sector.
Whether this is providing first-class advice on protecting property and staff at high-value retail premises, setting up professional training with police and crime partnerships, or advising frontline staff on cutting-edge PPE, I am deeply passionate about delivering the highest quality service.
StoneHawk is the culmination of many years of research, crime pattern awareness and an established strong network of like-minded professionals. I am proud to bring this effective training to the Jewellery, Watch, Pawnbroking, and High-Value Retail sectors.’