der Wright and Diamonds” jewelry store, did not know that he had been targeted as the next victim of a gang of professional jewelry thieves.
The baddies already knew a great deal about Alex – and his family. They had been watching his store for three days. To begin with, two of the gang, pretending to be man and wife, had gone into the store ostensibly to shop for a diamond bracelet, which they bought, and in the process they met Alex face-to-face, discovered him to be very friendly, and chatted him up a bit.
Alex was a kind man by nature, genuinely liked most all of his customers and enjoyed meeting new people. The couple who had just bought the diamond necklace were new to his town and he was more than happy to answer their questions and help them feel at home in his town and in his store.
But when they asked about family and where he lived, Alex got an uneasy feeling and felt the conversation was becoming too personal, and so he politely excused himself to check on something in the shop.
The pretend husband and wife returned to the gang with a great deal of information from their visit to the store. It was easy to see that the merchandise the store carried was high-end and fit the profile of what they were expected to send to “the organization” – quality diamond and gemstone goods and high-end watches. They had gleaned much of the jeweler’s personal information through casual conversation with him, and then noticed that he clammed up when they asked what neighborhood he lived in. Not a problem – they would soon find out.
From the shadows, they watched the store close each night, noting that a member of the staff always locked the door before they began to pull merchandise and put it into the vault – which the female of the “customer couple” had located during their visit when she had asked to use the restroom. They also watched the owner set the alarm just before getting into his car to drive home.
Twice, they had attempted to follow the jeweler home, but when he circled a block for no apparent reason, they thought he might be watching for a tail so they pulled away. But a tiny tracking device attached under a fender of the jeweler’s vehicle would take care of that issue. And so that evening they watched a tiny blip on a computer map and followed their target right to his driveway.
As they drove to the location they now knew to be the home of the jeweler, they encountered a gated entry to the neighborhood – a “security” gate; and they laughed as they easily drove through it behind another vehicle presumed to be that of a resident. For two days they watched the jeweler’s house from a secluded position. And in that time they learned to recognize his wife, and knew the names of their two children.
They chose a night to strike, but then changed it because Alex and his wife had guests for dinner. They could afford to be flexible – the take would be worth it. And so when the time was right – that time was 8 p.m. – the female of the gang walked up the steps to the Wright family front door and rang the bell.
Alex peered through the peephole of the door to see who might be calling so late. He saw a face which looked familiar to him. “Yes, who is it?”
“Oh, I’m so sorry to bother you, but my car has broken down in front of your house and I don’t have a cell phone. May I please use your phone to call my husband?”
Hearing the voice, Alex put it together with the familiar face and recognized that it was a customer who had been in his store a few days before – the newcomers to town. Of course, he would assist her, but he would not ask her in; he would just take a cell phone outside to her. Alex unbolted the door…
As soon as the door cracked open, it suddenly shoved against him with unexpected force! Alex recoiled in shock as two heavy-set men burst into his home. The woman followed. As one of the intruders held Alex at gunpoint, the other went through the house to find Alex’s wife. He moved deliberately, as though he knew the precise layout of the house and where to find her.
In a few moments, Alex, his wife, and his two children, now crying as they hugged their mother, were all seated in the living room in the home they had always considered their haven of safety.
“Mr. Wright, get your keys to the store! You an’ me an’ my partner here is goin’ downtown, an’ you’re gonna be a nice guy and turn off your alarm an’ open up your vault for us. Susan here is gonna stay here wit’ your wife and lil’ Erin ‘n’ Turin. Then if ever’thing wit’ you an’ us at the store goes alright, and we get the stuff we come after, then Susan will leave an’ you can come home, an nobody’ll get hurt.”
Alex has no other options. He must do exactly as he is told – go to the store with these thugs and pray for the safety of his family. Alex could covertly signal his alarm company that the alarm was being turned off “under duress,” but that might further endanger Alex and his family.
Less than an hour later, with the alarm turned off and an abundance of time, much of the store’s most expensive merchandise was taken in the heist – including customers’ property and memo goods.
What readers are accustomed to seeing in the column is a dilemma followed by a solution. Here’s what could happen, or did happen; and here’s what you can do to prevent it. This time you may not find what you are looking for.
The Jewelers Security Alliance, who keeps records of crime in the jewelry industry, reports that in 2010 and 2011, 13-14% of off premises jewelry crime involved an attack at a victim’s personal residence – a chilling fact, and one that is familiar to those in our trade who carry and sell to the retail trade. In 2012, that statistic virtually doubled to 27%. In one year, “private residence” became the largest identified site for off-premises jewelry crime. Part of the reason – jewelers with store-front operations are today being targeted with greater frequency.
The zebra seldom notices the tiger that is lurking in the tall grass – until it is too late.
Make no mistake – a “tiger abduction” is not a crime of opportunity, nor is it a crime carried out by amateurs of the jewelry underworld. They are planned out, and sometimes high-tech.
If you turn off your alarm system to deliberately allow the thieves to enter your store, and then open the safe for them – is your business protected by insurance?
This column cannot speak for all insurance companies or insurance policies, but with that understanding it can speak in generalities.
If your store insurance is a typical business insurance policy (“Business Owners Policy” as one title form), then the likelihood of coverage is zero. Such policies all but exclude jewelry and jewelry-related property from perils of crime. Standard business policies are intended to insure the furnishings and fixtures of a business, and even purchasing a high limit of coverage will not negate the limitation of coverage on jewelry, and that limitation applies to customers’ and vendors’ jewelry property as well.
The appropriate type of policy for a jewelry business is “Jewelers Block.” That is a policy which is intended for jewelry, precious stones and metals, and watches. Written properly, it also covers the jewelry property of customers and vendors (e.g., property on memo). The perils covered are not only crime but also fire, windstorm, and all the “normal” insurance perils.
Jewelers Block insurance most likely covers the loss that has been described – despite the fact that the jeweler was forced to cooperate with the thieves.
A person in the jewelry trade must be aware of his or her risk at all times – at the business and at home; and the concerns for safety should be shared with family members, as well – not to induce paranoia, but to create a constant level of vigilance.
Do all that you can to secure your home – with a high level alarm system, a safe or vault for valuable personal property, and video surveillance. Use evasive driving tactics – as Alex did going home – watching always for a “tail.” Spotting trouble before it actually happens is your best hope.
Also be certain that you are carrying the correct type of insurance for your jewelry business – and further, that your insurance professional is both knowledgeable and experienced in working with members of the jewelry industry.
The tiger lurks.
Bob Carroll, CIC, is a certified insurance counselor associated with Robert G. Carroll and Associates and Clockwork Insurance Services, serving the jewelry industry for more than 30 years, currently in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. For information about security or for insuring your jewelry business, go to www.robertgcarroll.com.