The gang of two men and one woman were driving through the city, the streets of which they were still becoming familiar with. Earlier in the day, using telephone listings, the local newspaper, and even the hotel “tourism” magazine, they had selected a few jewelry stores that they considered to be potential targets for their “specialty” – armed robbery. Today with on-site “visits,” they would narrow the field to one.
They drove by the first store on their list. There was road construction in front and the parking lot was congested. Their get-away might be hampered.
“Let’s go on to the next store on the list.”
The next store advertised high-end watches, which told the criminals what they wanted to know about the inventory in general – it would also be “high end.” It also might mean better than average security, and so more risk, but they weren’t worried.
“This store looks good from the outside,” the driver said, “you two go inside and check it out.” With that, the driver found a place to park a short distance away, from which he would be able to observe the store and at the same time be ready to quickly pick up the other two gang members should the need arise.
The two were well dressed, appropriate for the type of store they would be casing; and today they would be “husband and wife” – Anna and Miguel, names that matched the fake driver’s licenses they were carrying. Together, they walked from the vehicle to the store and entered.
They were greeted and welcomed by a sales associate the second they entered the fine jewelry store (they would have preferred otherwise). And the salesperson asked if she could show them anything in particular.
“Actually you could,” Anna answered, explaining that they had just received some money from the passing of a wealthy relative and that they had decided to buy each other a fine watch as a gift in memory of the generous relative. “Price is not important,” she confided.
“Well, we do carry some very fine brands here,” the salesperson said, naming a few. “If you will step over here I will be happy to show you some of them. My name is Susan, and you are…?” – prompting the crooks to introduce themselves. As they walked through the store, Miguel scanned the showroom, checking the location of cameras and number of store personnel. He also sighted the vault – located in the back room near what appeared to be the store’s shop.
The store did indeed have a nice watch inventory; and as items were being shown, Anna observed that Susan carried the showcase key on her wrist and carefully relocked the case each time she opened it. Also, she deftly skirted their persistent requests to be able to “shop and compare” several watches at once.
“We really have quite a bit of money to spend, and next month is our 5th anniversary,” Anna explained. “Could we see your most expensive watch in this brand?”
“And perhaps when we are finished here,” Miguel added, “you might show us some diamond jewelry – do you carry loose?” “Of course,” Susan replied; and then, “excuse me for just a moment.”
Susan politely interrupted the sales process to turn to another sales associate to say, “Richard, I intended to tell you earlier that Mr. Appleton called to say he would be in to pick up his repair this afternoon.” Having said that, Susan returned her attention to her two “customers.”
Seconds later, Richard could be heard asking another salesperson to check on the status of Mr. Appleton’s repair; and then that person was heard asking someone in the shop to be certain that Mr. Appleton’s repair would be ready for delivery today. This “Mr. Appleton” must be a very important customer, the thieves thought to themselves.
Then, as Susan was explaining features of the watch she was showing, Miguel observed Richard exiting the front of the store – perhaps to make a call since he was carrying a cell phone, and a note pad. Miguel also noted that there were suddenly more store associates in the showroom, including some men from the shop. Though they all seemed to be doing other things, he felt all of their eyes on him.
Anna and Miguel had seen and heard enough. They thanked Susan for her assistance and said that they would consider their choices and return later to make their purchases.
Back in the vehicle, the two characterized the store-casing in the same way, “no good!”
“Why not?” asked the driver.
“We had no time to check out the store before there was a salesperson on us; she wouldn’t let us see more than one watch at a time; and she kept relocking the case,” said the girl, adding, “and when I wanted to see their most expensive watch, she said their insurance company tells them they have to request photo I.D. – good thing we had the right ones with us.”
“Not only that,” said the male, “the salesperson was almost too friendly – she asked about where we were from, what kind of work we do; even asked us about our ‘poor dead relative!’”
“I’m almost sure they were onto us. Suddenly everybody was talking about some repair customer whose name was ‘Mr. Appleton!’ I think it could have been some sort of code. And right after that, this one guy walks right out of the store with a cell phone – I’m not sure why.”
“I can answer that,” said the driver. “He came clear out here to the parking lot and just watched the store. And I think he noticed me sitting in the car, ‘cause he started writing in his note pad – may even have our tag number.”
“So we’re all agreed, then. Cross this one off the list! Let’s move on to the next store.”
The next jewelry store the trio visited was likewise attractive on the outside, well-situated in terms of traffic, parking, etc., and seemed to carry the kind of goods in which they were most interested.
This time, when they walked in, the sales associates all seemed preoccupied – some with customers, some with paper work, another on the phone. The two walked about the store at leisure, eyeing the placement of merchandise, as well as camera locations, the safes, etc.
After several minutes, the salesperson on the phone ended his conversation by saying, “I’ll call you back later, I have to talk to a customer.” And then, “May I help you?”
And so the “Anna and Miguel inheritance” act began again. This time the jewelry salesman was more “generous” in allowing them to see more than one watch at a time – once even laying out several on the counter for them to compare. And there was no “baloney” about photo I.D. when they asked to see their most expensive watches.
On the loose diamonds question, the salesman eagerly bragged that yes, they had a very large inventory of loose diamonds which he would be delighted to show. And he walked to the safe and returned to the counter with a small leather-bound box that was full of the crispy little papers. (“And now we know where they keep those!” the two mused.)
After several more minutes in the store, during which the thieves were able to learn other things, like how many employees, whether there is a shop in the back, and how late they stay open, Anna and Miguel went back to the waiting car.
“Bingo!” And that said it all.
When they went to the store the next day just before closing, they were dressed differently – wearing ski masks; and they were pointing guns and yelling for everyone to get down on the floor. Much of the merchandise was handily already in boxes in preparation of being moved to the safe.
For “homework” and/or store discussion (and you thought you were through):
1. What things did Susan see or hear that raised her suspicions?
2. What lapses in security do you see in the store the gang chose to rob?
A final word:
The procedure followed by the staff in Susan’s store was effective in two ways. Since it was a casing and not an actual robbery, you can see the message that was sent to the criminals – “We’re onto you, you won’t be successful here; go away and don’t come back!” Had it been more of an actual robbery situation, Richard’s leaving the store to observe from outside would have taken away the would-be robbers’ ability to have complete control of the store.
The procedure is most effective when it is a familiar routine which every member of the staff team is completely comfortable in performing – and the best way to do that is with a dry run or “security drill” at least once a month.
Bob Carroll is a Certified Insurance Counselor and President of Robert G. Carroll and Associates – an independent insurance agency that has been serving jewelers in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Tennessee for more than 30 years – representing Jewelers Mutual and other fine carriers. “Jewelry insurance isn’t just what we do . . . it’s all we do!” See www.robertgcarroll.com or contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.