Breaking and Entering


Breaking and entering

Most burglaries occur within a span of three minutes but there are key steps you can take to avoid inventory loss.

by John Lamont, JVC’s Director of Crime Prevention


If you leave merchandise on display overnight, don’t expect it to be there in the morning. In 2011, Jewellers Vigilance Canada (JVC) had 18 reports of break-ins at retail jewellery stores for a total loss of $1.8 million. In 2012, that number dropped to 14 incidents with a loss of $1.7 million and in 2013, there was a drastic drop to 9 reported cases for a total of $470,000. These losses didn’t include the cost of damage repairs and in some cases, the loss of business.

In 2014, the number of reported break-ins drastically jumped to 20 incidents with losses amounting to $2.2 million. Most of the break-ins were reported in Western Canada, especially in the Calgary area. In certain cases, the retail jewellers were getting the message and putting most of the valuable merchandise into a safe at night, which reduced their losses. Unfortunately, we know that there is still a large number of jewellers that only cover their cases with a blanket or a cloth and they are mistaken in thinking that the criminals are not aware of what’s underneath.

In 2011, I wrote an article entitled “Hardening of the Target,” in which I mentioned that a number of jewellers believe the police to be the first line of defence against criminal activity. It is the opinion of this writer that in situations involving breaking and entering, this is not true. And this is not a disparaging comment against the police. In fact, I am a strong supporter of the police and work very hard with JVC to support them in their investigations. But many members of our industry must do everything they can to protect themselves. On the Jewelers Mutual Insurance (JMI) website, you can find many suggestions as to how retailers can protect their merchandise. In addition to this, JVC’s crime manual has an extensive section on protecting merchandise at night.

Many retail break-ins are referred to as “Three Minute Burglaries” and consist of smashing a glass window or door, breaking showcases and removing exposed jewellery. The thieves take whatever jewellery has been left out of the safe overnight and get out of the premises as quickly as possible. As soon as they hear the alarm sound, the criminals want to be out of the store in three minutes or less, which is the average time it take for police or security guards to respond. When you leave merchandise in your showcases, you are inviting criminals to break-in. “Three minute burglars” know an alarm is likely to sound but they plan to be gone in just a few minutes. They have no intention of attacking the safe. These types of thieves, who range from young gang members and drug addicts to professionals burglars, all act alike. If they can see it from outside of the store, they will try to steal it!

Remember that you can invest in a showcase that suits your needs. Today there are all sorts of showcases that come with various preventative measures. There are certain models out there that allow for the showcase bed to lower into a metal cabinet with the push of a button. This way, merchandise is out of sight and much harder to get at. High-end watches and diamonds should always be placed in a safe or a vault.


The following are recommendations for reducing three-minute burglaries:


  1. Never leave merchandise out and visible overnight, regardless of value.


  1. If you do not have enough room in your main safe, consider buying a second, less expensive safe for your lower-end merchandise.


  1. Metal grating or gates, which can be rolled down each night, should be installed on the inside of your store windows and doors. Alarms will sound when the glass is broken and before burglars even reach the gates. Metal gates inside the doors and windows discourage three-minute burglaries because of the extra time required to cut through them.


  1. Proper lighting, good visibility into your store overnight, appropriate deadbolt locks, and video surveillance systems capable of running 24 hours a day help keep burglars away.


  1. Making sure that the glass in your windows and doors is made of break-&-enter-resistant glazing materials listed with Underwriters Laboratories can further protect your premises. A sign in the window stating that it’s made out of special break-&-enter resistant glass might help discourage attacks.


  1. Make sure that you understand your insurance requirements regarding leaving goods out of the safe overnight.


  1. Make sure that mall security will check your store immediately upon discovery of any forced entry into the mall. Despite the temptation of dozens of other stores, a jeweller is often the prime or only target for criminals breaking into a mall.


If a criminal sees exposed jewellery inside your store, his business is to break in and take it! Would you leave cash out in your showcases overnight? Treat jewellery the same way. CJ