Jeweler Safety Series Part II: Security & Personal Protection Takeaways from 20 Peers in Jewelers Helping Jewelers & JHJ Jewelers Crime Alert Network

By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief

With more than 28,000 members, Jewelers Helping Jewelers on Facebook has certainly made its mark on the jewelry industry. And with the November 2022 debut of JHJ Jewelers Crime Alert Network and its 5,800 members to date, this forum is well on its way to helping even more members of the industry, particularly those affected by crime.

Tips of all kinds are routinely shared in both groups, but considering the rash of jewelry thefts occurring nationwide, AGTA has gathered up some of the most recent personal protection tips from your peers. Bonus: sign up here for real-time text alerts—a service created by Anish Densai of Star Gems in Atlanta—about crime by ZIP code in your area.

According to Aleah Arundale, owner of Olympian Diamonds in Chicago and founder of both groups, they are helping jewelers better defend themselves from criminals.

“Crimes are being prevented and more arrests made because jewelers are sharing images of suspects and crooks at record speed,” she says.

Laurie Watt, Mayer & Watt

“I was taught years and years ago when walking in a city to watch your back in the building and shop windows. Also, if someone grabs your bag release it but yell as loud as you can “$100 for anyone that stops that thief. Nowadays maybe $1,000 would be more effective.”

Kimberly Collins, Kimberly Collins Colored Gems

“For the last 28 years on the road, I have tried to think of what the robbers would be looking for to identify me as a saleswoman. So I dress like I would if I was out shopping. I carry a large handbag, or in the past, even a diaper bag! And I window shop, but I actually shop, so when I go into a jewelry store, I’d have a shopping bag from someplace I already purchased something from. Then when I enter a store, I immediately start looking in the showcases. If you are being cased, a lot of times they’re using a long lens, and they’re watching you from outside in a car. I want them to see that I am actively shopping. I never open my bag on the showroom floor. When I first started, a lot of people wanted to look at the goods on the countertop, now I always request a back room or someplace where I can’t be seen. When leaving a jewelry store, I try to have a plan to pop into another shop close by. If it’s a freestanding jewelry store, I use  evasive driving methods when I leave, watching who’s behind me on the road, taking exits that I may not need to take just to see if I’m being followed.

“I never leave my bag unattended. If I can I lock it up at night with a jewelry store I see, I do. If not, I bring my bag everywhere with me. And if the worst-case scenario happened and I was attacked, I would hand my bag over rather than fight. I insure with Jewelers Mutual, and if I do all things right, they will cover me.”

Rachel Chalchinsky, Color Source Gems

“I have two security suggestions. Have a two-door mantrap buzz-in, buzz-out system. Place a camera at face height to photograph people when they enter your place of business. Require visitors to remove hats, sunglasses and masks. A sign can be posted with that request.

Elie Ribacoff, gemologist and security consultant

“Keep a low profile, don’t be flashy. Remember Kim Kardashian. Have adequate insurance and records. The claims process is long and difficult. Install two-door mantraps. These are the best way to prevent robberies and smash and grabs. Use high-quality security products. Your safes, cameras, and alarms locks should all be top of the line and professionally installed. Train your staff. Stay alert.”

Mark Silverman, Matthews Jewelers, Plantation, Fla.

“Have showcases outfitted with locks that capture the keys. This system won’t allow a salesperson to leave a showcase open and go to another case. Also have a code word that alerts everyone that something is uncomfortable and to bring all hands on deck. Have PIR [passive infrared sensor] detectors installed above drop ceilings.”

Johnny Brookheart, Johnny Brookheart

“Keep the damn safe locked.”

Stew Brandt, H. Brandt Jewelers, Natick, Mass.

“Have a system where your alarm company calls to check on you if you haven’t left at your scheduled time or when you open at an unscheduled time. Have a code word if something bad is happening for either event.”

Jeanne Calk Taylor, Taylor’s Jewelry, Rolla, Mo.

“Trust your instincts. Don’t let yourself get greedy. Be willing to let a sale go.”

Scott McCoy, Gold Doctor, Kingman, Ariz.

“Install a high-definition full-color surveillance system at eye level inside and outside your store. Install motion sensors in your attic crawl space and facing any adjoining suite walls and on your safe.”

Denise Hartman, N. Green & Sons, Chicago

“Have a code word!”

Tina Yancey, House of Blue Jewelry, Tyler, Texas

“Keep your doors locked and have clients ring a doorbell for entry. This gives you more control and reduces grab-and-run and smash-and-grab theft.”

Jim Mannella, Unique & Precious, Inc., Loxahatchee Groves, Fla.

“Post signage asking clients to remove hats, sunglasses, and any masks before entering your store. Say it’s a rule from your insurance company.”

Jay Schuffman, retired sales rep

“When a person from another part of the country just happens to walk in and wants to spend thousands, don’t let your ego get the best of you. Beware of strangers bearing gifts!”

Matt Harris, Matt Harris Designs

“Trust your gut.”

Carol Creech, Loupe Jewelry & Watch Repair, Dallas

“If you know an area where thieves have definitely left fingerprints, put a few pieces of paper over the prints until the police arrive. My grab-and-run hit the glass doors with two open hands! We had complete finger and handprints. I could see them, so I taped a sheet of paper over them per their location. He was caught too!”

Carl Larson, Pala International

“Don’t be glued to your phone.”

Shannon Kaye Germanos, The National Association of Jewelry Appraisers

“While closed, leave all cases 100% empty and uncovered, and leave the store lights on all night. The electric bill is cheaper than the sanity damage of a robbery.”

Perry Township Police Department, Stark County, Ohio
Graphic created by Perry Township Police Department, Stark County, Ohio
Rebecca Shukan, Omi Privé

“Don’t overshare personal information on your vehicle, such as kids’ schools and activities, vanity license plates, or hobbies that could tip off thieves to your whereabouts.”

Joe Barnard, Bernie Robbins Fine Jewelers, Somers Point, N.J.

“Here are 10 red flags or warning signs (from JSA) that a criminal could be in your store, including robbers, distraction thieves, and grab-and-run artists. None of the red flags below prove a crime is about to happen, but jewelers should be aware that the red flags below are how many of today’s jewelry criminals commonly behave. While genuine customers can also have habits like these, a jeweler should take special precautions when he or she sees the following red flags. Remember, no red flag is conclusive, but each additional red flag should raise the level of security.

  1. Is the person on their cell phone? Attempting to take photos of watches or store?
  2. Is the person asking to see multiples item at the same time, in the hopes of confusing or distracting you?
  3. Is the person wearing sunglasses, or a hat pulled low or a hoodie to conceal his or her identity?
  4. Are they dressed in a manner possibly designed to disguise their true appearance, such as bulky clothes, hat, sunglasses, a wig etc.?
  5. Are large numbers of people entering together, for example, three or more people? Will you be able to adequately protect your merchandise with a large number of people inside your store?
  6. Is the person putting large or bulky items, including coats, on the showcase, or moving pads, mirrors or other items on the showcase in order to block your view?
  7. Is the person asking unusual questions, particularly about security, hours, or schedules or looking with unusual interest at your cameras or security equipment? Are they unwilling or unable to answer basic sales questions?
  8. Is the person asking to see the “most expensive” watch in the store?
  9. Is the person making hand signals or other gestures that appear to be communicating with other people?
  10. Is the person walking around the store with their hands in their pockets or their hands balled up into a fist, in order to avoid touching anything in the store that would leave fingerprints?

You have to have protocol and procedures for security and, just as important, train everyone in your store! You are only as strong as your weakest link.”

Aleah Arundale, Olympian Diamonds and Jewelers Helping Jewelers

“Train daily! Role play how to beat sneak thieves—have employees pretend to distract or steal, critique their moves, and learn from the experience. Jewelers’ Security Alliance (JSA) has advice for keeping stores safer, too! Here are some of their tips:

  • Put away all goods in a safe or vault, and do not leave goods in showcases. Goods left in showcases are a magnet for burglars, and even lower-end goods need to be put away. If you don’t have room in your safe or vault, put lower-end goods in a locked cabinet, drawer, or closet.
  • Test your alarm system, including motion detectors and other components, before closing.
  • Think about your safe. Many jewelers have safes offering inadequate protection from today’s burglars. If your jewelers block insurance coverage allows you to store your higher-end merchandise or a portion of your inventory in a bank vault, you might wish to consider this for the duration of the closure. Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company will be launching a program for its insureds, in cooperation with secure shipping firm Malca-Amit, to pick up some or all of your inventory and put it in Malca-Amit secure vaults.
  • Don’t resist in a robbery, show one item at a time, and keep your showcases locked except when actually taking product out or returning it to the showcase.

More red flags indicating possible suspicious situations include three or more people entering together, disguised appearances with hats and sunglasses, people talking on cellphones, and people wearing inappropriate clothing for the season.

When you see such red flags, you and the store staff need to go on high alert. Also be especially alert for phishing attempts in which criminals try to have you open and click links in emails which appear to be genuine. If you have the slightest doubt regarding the legitimacy of an email, delete it.

Be on guard for fraud attempts involving social engineering, in which criminals may, for example, impersonate a customer or vendor and attempt to have you send money or jewelry product. Look carefully at email addresses that might be slightly different from your actual customer or vendor. If you have any doubts about a transaction, contact the known customer or vendor by phone to confirm that the transaction or request is legitimate.

Be healthy and stay safe!”

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