How to prevent burglaries? We asked the police …

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April 17, 2014 – During the last weeks and months, the number of dangerous robberies and violent crimes has risen significantly. CoinsWeekly spoke to Harald Schmidt from the department of regional and national crime prevention in Germany and asked him to give us some tips for coin dealers and collectors. Here are his answers:

CW: Mr Schmidt. You are responsible for regional and national crime prevention by the police in Germany. Could you be so kind as to give us an impression of what the situation is like at the moment? Are there hard facts to back up the subjective feeling that there has been a considerable increase in the number of crimes?
Harald Schmidt: In criminology, we divide robbery into different categories: robbery of cash transports, robbery of paying agents, highway robbery (in public places, on streets etc.), bag-snatching, robbery of motorists, breaking into houses. In 2012, robberies only accounted for 0.8 per cent of the total number of all crimes. All robberies were unusually violent and the offenders used very aggressive means to come in possession of the goods. 48,711 robberies were reported to the police in 2012. After a constant decline in the number of robberies since 2004 (2011: -0.3 %, 2010: -2.3 %, 2009: -1.2 %, 2008: -5.7 %, 2007: -1.4 %, 2006: -2.1 %), the year saw a slight increase of 1.4 %. The number of aggravated robberies, i.e. robberies involving a weapon, decreased by 9.3 % to 3,164 incidents. However, in more than 50 per cent of all bank and mail robberies the offenders carried weapons. Similarly, robberies of other paying agents and shops involve weapons much more often than highway robberies. Robberies of other paying agents and shops as well as of financial institutions also caused the highest financial damages, round about two fifths of the total damage. In danger are almost all shops and institutions which are in possession of cash money and/ or expensive and easily transportable goods, as for instance jewellers and of course coin dealers and collectors.

CW: Which measure would you recommend to coin dealers in order to protect their shops?
Harald Schmidt: There is no such thing as 100 per cent security, in no area. Still, it is possible to reduce the risk of becoming a robbery victim by taking organisational and technical measures. Building a trusting relationship with your employees is definitely of great importance. Always make sure that your personnel never talks to outsiders about security measures or storage of valuables (coins) or cash. And prevent unauthorised persons from entering important rooms. There should never be more than a limited amount of change in your shop. Additional sums should better be stored in the safe.

CW: Would you recommend installing a robbery alarm to coin dealers?
Harald Schmidt: Burglar and robbery alarms provide extra protection and complete mechanical security provisions in crucial ways. Depending on the type and the scope of the robbery, a robbery alarm system can effectively deter offenders before the crime actually happens or it can inform security services or the police quickly and effectively.
If planning to set up an alarm system, you should always keep in mind one principle: “First set off the alarm, then the mechanical obstacle”, so that the security forces arrive before the mechanical barriers break down. Burglar alarms should ideally be designed in a way that in the case of emergency, a robbery alarm can also be set off.
One thing is particularly important: Do talk to a (crime) police information centre in time before installing a burglar alarm. Consultation is objective and in many locations free of charge. You will also be able to receive a list of qualified security service providers. A robbery or burglar alarm system must at all costs be designed, installed and maintained professionally. Design and installation errors must be avoided because even the best and most expensive alarm system becomes useless if it can be circumvented or if it constantly causes false alarms. Robbery and burglar alarm systems should conform to official technological standards.

CW: What is your opinion on CCTV (video surveillance)?
Harald Schmidt: Many potential offenders will be deterred by CCTV cameras. Otherwise, the video material is an important document which can be evaluated by the police later on. This can be a crucial aid in the investigation.
When you think about investing in CCTV, you should ensure that design and installation are executed professionally and that the CCTV confirms to appropriate technological standards. Also keep in mind the legal and labour legislational regulations.

CW: Coin dealers usually have a well-protected safe in their shop – but some coin collectors may wish to have a smaller safe at home which enables them to look at their collection whenever they want to. Can you think of anything important to consider with a rather small safe like this?
Harald Schmidt: Definitely confirm to the regulations of the VdS-Schadenverhütungs GmbH (a German company for loss prevention) if you are located in Germany or refer to an equivalent institution in your country which certifies security measures. In order to prevent a safe from being stolen and broken into, it should be built in according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. This is particularly important for safes with a dead weight of less than 1,000 kg.
Traditional double-bit key locks as well as mechanical or electronic permutation locks may be used as locking systems. These locks can also be freely combined with each other. Time-controlled locks may be employed if the safe is meant to be used at specific times only. Ensure extremely safety-conscious handling of the keys and number combinations, which can be changed at all times. If possible, the safe should be hidden from view and not immediately visible for everyone.
If you’re in possession of a safe with an electronic key lock, you can interconnect it to your burglar and robbery alarm system and set off the alarm yourself. The safe will still open but simultaneously activate the robbery alarm if a specific number code is entered.

CW: But a secret alarm like this could always be set off easily with an alarm button, couldn’t it? Is there anything in particular to consider?
Harald Schmidt: I would strongly recommend installing an alarm button alongside with the robbery alarm system. However, this also means bigger organisational and financial expenses as an appropriate reaction to the alarm call will be necessary. The best would be to get advice from a specialist for alarm system installations.

CW: And what if it happens despite of everything? What advice can you give to robbery victims?
Harald Schmidt: Listen closely to the offender and follow his instructions calmly and without resistance. Passive behaviour and a calm voice prevent impulsive actions on part of the offender. Don’t use weapons or weapon-like objects. Don’t try to stop the offender and do not attack him. Leave your hands where they are visible for the offender and do not make quick or surprising movements. Comment on what you’re doing to calm down the offender.
If you recognise the offender, don’t let it show. And never leave a safe area to help another employee who is in danger. The situation may escalate.
To help the police investigations it is important that you memorize the course of events, the offender’s features, possible weapons or other aids and his vehicle type/ number plate.
Taking the right course of action is especially important after the robbery. First of all, you should administer first aid if necessary. Calm down other victims, free tied up persons. Now, at the latest, should you call the police and give them first information about the offender, his weapons, getaway car and direction. Stay in contact with the police. Close down the shop, lock customer entrances and ask eye witnesses to wait for the arrival of the police. If that isn’t possible, ask them to leave name and address.

CW: Mr Schmidt, in the name of our readers I want to thank you for this conversation.