StoneHawk advises jewellers on how to cut risks of smash-and-grab
April, 2018 – Simon Wilson, Managing Director of StoneHawk, tells Jewellery Outlook Editor David Brough that smash-and-grab attacks on jewellery retailers are becoming more daring and aggressive.
Q. Simon, what trends have you seen in smash and grab raids on UK jewellers in recent years?
Simon Wilson: The main trends have clearly been the increase in size of the criminal teams, the increase in violence used, the increase in weaponry carried, and the fact that the criminals are entering the showrooms.
Jewellers have invested considerably in many excellent security products to thwart the criminals’ attacks, but as the reward remains so high, the criminals are prepared to take even higher risks.
The “domination” tactic of having higher numbers of criminals storming a showroom, overpowers and controls the staff and security.
Often each criminal has a specific task in the smash-and- grab. We see criminals standing outside the showroom wielding serious weapons to prevent bystanders interfering, whilst other criminals carry out the theft inside.
The criminals have been driven inside the showrooms to ‘get at’ the stock.
Previously the windows were weak, and the criminal would simply smash the glass, reach in and get the stock — commonly known as an “external” smash and grab.
Now that criminals are entering the showroom more — known as an “internal” smash and grab — they are face- to-face with staff and security.
To address this aspect, the criminals are prepared to increase their numbers and carry serious weapons to intimidate the staff to comply.
Q. In the age of CCTV and Fog Bandit, is it difficult for assailants, whether on motor bikes or on foot, to escape detection or capture/arrest?
Simon Wilson: Security does not have to be complex, but the products used must complement each other.
I always recommend that in the first instance the brand has “panic fobs” for their staff to carry which link to the panic alarm to alert the police.
A fob is preferred to a fixed panic button, as the time to react and press the fob is generally much faster than reaching for a button.
There must be CCTV in place to record the crime.
Security fog for me is a must. The staff and assets must be removed from sight and with the correct placing of the fog unit, the criminals will be driven out of the showroom.
Targeted synthetic DNA is an excellent security product as it ties the criminals to the location of the crime and provides the police with strong evidence for the criminal to answer once caught — even if the criminal has covered his/her face. Of course, training is very significant.
By having a full staff team understand how to open/ close the premises properly, and being aware during their working day, knowing how to react should a smash-and-grab happen, knowing how to preserve the scene for the police, and knowing how/when to use their security products, makes the showroom much less of a target.
With the above structure in place it is hard for the criminals to escape detection and arrest, and it is also very likely that another showroom would be targeted.
The display of signage showing what security products are installed, is definitely something that the criminals observe before targeting a showroom.
Q. Do the local police around the country tend to have good intelligence about who are handling stolen goods, including jewellery, gems and watches?
Simon Wilson: Yes, and intelligence-led policing has been proven for many years to be the strength behind many convictions of the receivers of the stolen watches and jewellery.
However, the police can only act on information received, so I always empower the retailers to use platforms such as SaferGems, Safer Jewellery and Luxury Fashion, to work closely with their security (if in place) and the local police.
Retailers have a sixth sense to know when something/someone is not right: it is this information that needs to be shared more.
Each piece of information, no matter how small and irrelevant, could be that final piece of a jigsaw that the police need.
Q. What kind of help to jewellers do your courses provide? Do your courses help jewellers learn to cope with the aftermath of a raid? What psychological impact can there be for the victims?
Simon Wilson: The aim of the StoneHawk #StopSmashandGrabs course is to empower jewellers nationally to be stronger and less of a target, by providing a set of best practice techniques that can be implemented into their daily routine, without being intrusive.
Essentially, when a criminal observes the jeweller’s daily patterns and security awareness, the aim is that the criminal would feel that the risk of detection and/or no reward (stock) was too high, and the criminal would go elsewhere.
The causes, effects and how to address trauma is a significant part of the course.
The retailers deliver an exceptional customer experience and service, and to have this change to a smash-and- grab in less than a second, can leave significant trauma.
By talking about trauma as a group, advising how the jewellers’ respective insurance covers this aspect, and guiding jewellers on where to go (if not instructed under their insurance policy) to find help, really empowers the staff teams to be stronger.
Thankfully, as a society now we are much more open and aware when it comes to the psychological impacts of trauma.
It is widely known that many members of staff feel unable to continue in their position after a smash-and-grab; staff loss after a smash and grab is a real and understandable issue in the industry.
By working with full staff teams, a course that does not scare them but creates a feeling of empowerment and unity, together we contribute significantly to the reduction of trauma.
Q. You started your business relatively recently. What feedback have you received from retail jewellers about your courses after staff have taken part, and how are you raising the profile of your business in the trade?
Simon Wilson: StoneHawk is now 14 months old. No matter what brand we work with, what age or sex the staff member is, we are delighted to receive continued positive feedback and thanks for the course.
We have a growing number of glowing testimonials from the small single showroom independents, through to certainly one of the world’s largest luxury houses across their brands.
Last year was all about the structure and design of the course to qualification standard, achieving recognition from the leading jewellers’ block insurers, and meeting the police Secured By Design accreditation standard.
This year is all about getting out there to speak at conferences, exhibit, network and reach the jewellers.
This is being achieved by membership with the leading associations, gaining industry-recognised accreditations, and simply putting a face to the brand by being available to answer questions in person.
Q. What is your background in this area, who are the members of your team, and what experience do they have in this field?
Simon Wilson: My service was with the Metropolitan Police, during which time I developed a strong interest in thwarting robberies.
I worked across London in a number of fast-paced reactive police teams, and also in the intelligence-led police departments.
Rob Henderson is our Director of Learning & Development. “Rob is a highly skilled security professional with experience in conflict zones globally for HM forces.
His strong understanding of criminal tactics has enabled him to design a preventative robbery curriculum and successfully instruct a high volume of students in the prevention of robbery.
He ultimately strives to continually improve education, safety and the well-being of those he teaches.
Paul Campbell is our Operations Director. Paul is a security professional with over 15 years’ experience within the security industry.
He is a member of the International Professional Security Association, and acts as a consultant for many prestigious retail jewellers.
He also manages and advises front line operatives in retail environments on best practice, as well as providing real time intelligence and criminal trends to the StoneHawk team.
Q. Do you hope that your courses can reduce risks that smash-and-grab raids will take place in future and, if so, how?
Simon Wilson: Yes, most certainly… and this is a very big challenge we are happy to take on.
I believe that although the growth of the online retail market is taking place, that the purchase of jewellery and watches will always have a place on the high street.
Because the value of stock pieces is so high, the criminal channels for passing on the stolen items are in place.
The ‘reward’ justifies to the criminal the ‘risks’ taken, and so the crime is still an option for the criminals.
The StoneHawk course empowers staff to be stronger, to be much less of a ‘target’ by adopting better opening/closing and daily routines, and to ‘target harden’ their showroom, causing the criminal to go elsewhere.
During a recent presentation to Houlden Group members, I calculated that based only on the reported smash-and-grab activity in the first six weeks of this year, that with this level of criminal activity, there would be a 41% increase in smash-and-grabs nationally in 2018. We must all work together to reduce this crime immediately.
StoneHawk is working closely with police services and business crime initiatives nationally to help achieve a reduction.
We want to be the reason that staff feel stronger, are less traumatised, and so that the police have stronger scene forensics by empowering the industry.
StoneHawk’s presentation is delivered at the retailer’s location and only takes four hours.