I’ll be honest, I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t on an ‘alarm call list’. You know, that list of names that your alarm company is going to call first in the middle of the night. Most of that time, I’ve been the only one on that list. And, I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve only been called a few times, and they were all false alarms.
But, I’ve also been at my store, in the middle of the day, when the alarm got tripped. Fortunately, all of those times were accidental as well. But the response was the same every time. Here are a few instances when my silent holdup alarm got tripped and sent up the bat signal.
I host an annual Christmas Eve party at my store for family and friends. Around 1998, my 6-year-old nephew Bob, on Christmas Eve, came out of the bathroom and asked what the button on the wall was for. His father Chris and I looked at each other with a look of terror. Chris asked him if he pushed the button. Little Bob kind of got a sad look on his face and said no. Chris and I, at the same time, said, “He pushed the button!”
The first thing I did was grab my phone to see if I had a dial tone. I didn’t! At that time, before cell phones, when the silent alarm button was pushed, the alarm system took command over the phone system to contact the police.
Because I was having a party at the time, there were about 15-20 people in the store, including several children. I told them all what to do, and to do it exactly like I told them since the police are about to be involved thinking it was an armed robbery. I was correct!
Since I didn’t know exactly when my nephew had pushed the button, I didn’t know what I would find when I stuck my head out the door. Uh Oh! There were police cars blocking the street on either side of my store, complete with police officers holding long guns taking cover behind them. I walked out carefully, with my hands in plain sight, and told them it was a false alarm, and that my 6-year-old nephew pushed the button by mistake.
I told them I’d have everyone come outside and they could search the property or whatever they needed to do. By this time, it was obvious that it was a false alarm and everyone calmed down, and the long guns were put away. A few minutes later, we continued on with the party – and Bob has never lived that down.
The next time, a few years later, was funnier. My hold-up alarm was a small key fob type device I kept in the pocket of my work apron. One afternoon, after finishing using the bathroom, while I was zipping my pants, my alarm button slipped out of my apron pocket and went down the toilet as it was flushing. My first thought was; ‘how much is that going to cost to replace?’ My second thought was; “Oh crap, did it trip the alarm?” I grabbed my phone and discovered it was offline. Once again, the alarm system took command over the phone system to call the police. Here we go again.
This time, because I knew how long it had been since the alarm had tripped, I just went out on the sidewalk and waited for the police to show up. And show up they did – in force. I was able to diffuse this one almost immediately, and the response was a little more lighthearted. I walked a couple of the officers back and showed them how it happened, and it cracked them up. They said none of them had ever heard of that happening before. For years after that, I heard that I was kind of an urban legend in the police department – for all of the wrong reasons.
And for the record, it cost me $195 to replace and reprogram the new alarm key fob.
Many years later, in my next location, my alarm system just decided to send out a holdup signal all on its own. I was watching the Twin 125’s (a qualifying race for the Daytona 500) on TV in my shop, and it was about 2:50 in the afternoon. Because I had a gun store next door to me, and a police precinct behind me, police cars in the parking lot was a common sight. And, since the police department has a shift change at 3:00, it was normal to see police officers stopping in for something real quick before their shift. So, while watching the race, I glanced out towards the parking lot and saw a police officer getting out of his squad car at a few minutes till 3, in a big hurry. I assumed he was just stopping by to grab something at the gun store before roll call.
As I was watching him walk in my direction, I noticed something was different, and he was looking right at me, with his hand on his service weapon on his hip. Then it hit me, he wasn’t going to the gun store, he was coming here, and he looked serious. I immediately put my hands were he could see them and gave him two thumbs up and walked slowly towards the front door. When I opened it and walked out there were 6 or 7 patrol cars and all of the officers were behind their doors with their guns drawn. I found out that day what would happen if you tripped your holdup button at the exact time about 40 police cars were within a hundred yards of your store during a shift change. It was a quick conversation with the police and an obvious false alarm, so everyone packed up and went back to what they were doing before the ‘silent hold-up at a jewelry store’ alarm went off.
I called my alarm company and they came out and determined that my wireless holdup button had malfunctioned and just randomly sent the signal. They replaced the panic button, did a test on it, and reset the system and I was good to go. And this time I didn’t have to pay for it!
Working in the jewelry industry has always been part jewelry, and part security. We have all of these alarms systems, holdup buttons, safes, vaults, motion sensors, and magnetic door locks for a reason. Sometimes we get complacent and take it all for granted, and let our guards down. Make it a point in your daily routine to never let that happen. Your life could depend on it. In the few times my holdup button was activated, the system worked as advertised and the cavalry was outside my door in just a few minutes each time.
Many members of the jewelry industry are also first responders and know the feeling of hearing your phone ringing in the middle of the night. You’re hoping it’s your dispatch, not your alarm company. And you’re grateful when it’s dispatch sending you somewhere other than your own store.
This topic came up because there is a new Facebook group out there called JHJ Jewelers Crime Alert Network. It was started by the same person (Aleah) that started Jewelers Helping Jewelers. I encourage everyone to check it out and sign up. We can never let down our guards in this industry. This group was designed to be a place where jewelers can post security threats and all of the other jewelers around you will be notified immediately. And, with those roving bands of thieves that go town to town, this group is very helpful.
Stay vigilant, and stay safe.