How to protect yourself from criminals
By John Lamont, Director of Loss Prevention, JVC
In November and December of 2015, there was some unusual criminal activity in the greater Toronto area. An organized gang targeted members of the South Asian jewellery community. Gang members invaded the homes of retail jewellers and held family members hostage to try and force store owners to divulge information about their store security systems. Fortunately, none of these particular events were successful as family members were able to notify police and the suspects fled before police arrived. As a result of these events on January 25th 2016, a meeting was held between the South Asian Jewellery community, local politicians as well as local police and Jewellers Vigilance Canada (JVC).
The following robberies are very rare. In Canada, there have only been a few incidents. However, these robberies in the United States are becoming common—and what usually happens in the United States eventually comes to Canada. Therefore, Canadian jewellers must be prepared in case any of the following incidents should occur. Here are some details and suggestions that can help mitigate the risk.
1 | Casing
Attacks on jewellers’ homes are preceded by some form of casing, in which the criminals follow a jeweller, stake out his home or business and try to find out information about him, his patterns and his family. Always be aware of your surroundings to ensure that you are not being watched or followed. Are people sitting in a car near your home or business for too long? Is a car following you when you leave the store? Do you have suspicious phone calls or suspicious “customers” visiting your store? The best opportunity for stopping a home invasion is to spot suspects during the casing period and to call the police. If you feel that you are being watched or followed, report your suspicions immediately.
2 | Vary Route
Vary your route and time of travel to and from work. Be alert to people following or watching you. In order to determine if you are being followed, drive very slowly and observe if any vehicles are hanging back and unwilling to pass you. Again, report any suspicions to the authorities right away.
3 | Physical Security at Home
Security features should be a very important factor in selecting the residence in which you choose to live. Jewellers should evaluate issues such as a dead-end versus a heavily travelled street, the closeness of neighbours, and the garage or parking set-up. Physical security issues, such as having proper locks, an alarm system, proper lighting and a camera system, must also be given careful consideration. There are jewellers who highly recommend a dog at home for warning and protection.
4 | Training Family Members
Even the youngest family member in your household needs some instruction about the dangers of the jewellery business and how they must cooperate. Family members should be trained not to give out information on the phone, not to open the door to unknown people, to be extremely careful regarding delivery personnel, and to be alert for suspicious people watching the house. Even temporary visitors, such as an in-law or babysitter, need specific instructions.
5 | No Large Safe or Jewellery Merchandise at Home
Never keep jewellery merchandise or a large safe at home. Personal jewellery may be kept in a small, concealed safe in a floor or wall. Consider keeping valuable personal jewellery in a bank safe deposit box when not being used.
6 | Trusted Neighbours
Whether near your home or business, trusted neighbours can provide additional eyes for spotting suspicious behaviour by those casing you. Discuss with trusted neighbours your special risks as a jeweller and enlist their help.
7 | Household Help
Every household worker who comes into your home puts you at a greater risk. Cleaning ladies, lawn help, babysitters, painting and remodeling people, and a long list of workers with access and knowledge of your household all pose some risk. Even if they are honest themselves, they may have boyfriends, spouses, relatives or friends who are criminals, or they may unintentionally provide information to those who then target you. Screen, monitor and supervise all household help very carefully. In the case of a nanny or someone with close contact with your household, or in the case of someone who lives with you, a background investigation of that person is suggested.
8 | Telephone
Ensure that your home phone number is unlisted and unpublished. Additionally, keep a charged cell phone with you at all times—including at your beside at night.
9 | Social Networks
Do not put personal information about your home, family members and events such as vacations on social networking sites.
10 | Car Panic Alarm
Some jewellers keep their car keys next to their bed so that they can hit the remote panic alarm of their car to help scare off intruders at the first hint of trouble.
11 | Suspicious Incident Logbook
Many jewellers have found it helpful to keep a suspicious incident logbook at their business premises in which all employees can record incidents that appear to be “not quite right.” This process should also be undertaken at home. The log can be used to write down details such as license plate numbers, names used, time, physical description and other information regarding suspicious incidents that may later be helpful to police.
12 | Security Code Phrase
Jewellers should consider having a family security code phrase that can be used to alert a family member on the phone to a crime problem. The code phrase must not raise the suspicions of criminals holding the jewellery or family hostage.
13 | Safe Room
Jewellers should consider having a safe room where family members could escape to and lock themselves in so they cannot be taken hostage by criminals. The room should be equipped with a working cell phone so police can be called. Some families have used a cold cellar room with a steel door as a safe room.
Assume criminal gangs will use any means, including violence, to carry out a home invasion and robbery. If a jeweller is a victim of a kidnapping or robbery, them, their family members and others involved should cooperate fully with the criminals or risk violence.