By Lenore Fedow
lenore.fedow@nationaljeweler.com
R.F. Moeller Jewelers, which has two stores in the Minneapolis area, boarded up both locations in June after lootings occurred in the city following the death of George Floyd.
New York—As an election season unlike any other nears its close, murmurs of civil unrest on the horizon have retailers nationwide on high alert.

Business owners are wary of a repeat of the events that followed protests organized in response to the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died at the hands of white police officers in Minneapolis in May.

Amid the peaceful protestors who rallied against racism and called for accountability in the face of police violence against Black Americans were pockets of individuals who damaged property and looted stores.

While some said the looting was opportunistic and detracted from the call for justice, others said peaceful protests have been ignored in the past and were angered that some people seemed more upset about the property damage than the loss of human life.

Cities across the U.S. are readying themselves in the event they face a similar situation on Election Day in a tense and deeply divided nation.

In downtown Los Angeles’ jewelry district, the International Jewelry Center and St. Vincent Jewelry Center buildings have both issued “civil disturbance precautions” to tenants.

Tiffany & Co., Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and other high-end retailers have implemented additional security measures ahead of Election Day.

Police departments in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas and other cities are preparing in the event of any election-related disturbances.


RELATED CONTENT: Jewelers React to Nationwide Protests, Looting

Three out of four voters are concerned about post-election violence, according to a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll, with only one in four respondents saying they are “very confident” there will be a peaceful transfer of power if Democratic challenger Joe Biden defeats President Donald Trump.

Jewelers’ Security Alliance President John Kennedy said in a statement to National Jeweler that jewelers can remain open, but should continue to take all the usual protections.

Berkley Asset Protection, which specializes in insuring jewelry, fine art, and other high-value items, has compiled a list of tips for jewelers concerned about election-related unrest, some of which are just standard store security measures.

Put all merchandise away in a safe or vault.

“The civil unrest that we saw this summer centered around property damage and commotion. These individuals were not trained burglars,” Berkley Asset Protection noted.

By moving items into the safe or a vault, the building may sustain damage, but the merchandise will be safely tucked away.

Do not cover the showcases, as that may give the impression that valuable items are underneath.

Leave them uncovered to show that the case is empty and encourage robbers to move along, something JSA always advises jewelers to do.

“By having a contingency plan to get all inventory safely secured, the store will be less of a target,” said Berkley Asset Protection.

Don’t forget about inventory records.

Move inventory records offsite or keep a backup in a cloud-based system, as they can be difficult to recreate.

Having the records on-hand also makes it easier to file a claim if there is any loss.

Keep in touch with the local authorities.

The company advised paying close attention to communications from local police departments.

Heed any warnings of a possible event and abide by the advice given. Have a direct line to local law enforcement saved on your phone and your employees’ phones.

“We saw incidents this summer where unrest flared up in the afternoon. Being caught by surprise, some jewelers did not have the proper amount of time to close their store and secure goods,” Berkley said.

Be mindful of local news as well to see if there is unrest in nearby areas.

Make it clear there is no jewelry inside the store.

If a storefront is boarded up, consider writing “No Jewelry Onsite” on the boards.

While jewelry stores are always a target, signage outside may dissuade people from breaking into the store.

Close before the evening comes.

Jewelers should consider operating with reduced hours so the store can be closed before the evening.

“The important thing is having a pulse of the local community and potential triggers to unrest, especially in larger metro areas,” Berkley said.

If the store alarm goes off, wait for the police before visiting the store.

Several instances of video surveillance show that jewelry store break-ins can happen in waves, said the company.

“The last thing you want to face is entering the store, which appears empty, to then be confronted with another wave of rioters.”

Value safety over property.

Do not sleep in your store or attempt to defend it in any way, said Berkeley Asset Protection.

Once the store is boarded up and the merchandise has been moved to a safe place, focus on personal safety.

Be sure security cameras are working properly.

It’s important to have working cameras, but also to have them set up in the right places, like near cash registers, on expensive showcases and at exterior doors.

Be sure they’re at the proper height to capture a person’s face.

Have a system in place that stores the images for at least 30 days that is backed up to the cloud or another system off the premises.

Keep employees in the know.

Jewelers need to have a plan of action for last-minute situations. Staff should be briefed on what to do in case of an emergency.

Go through the store’s security protocol on a regular basis so staff know what to do in the event of a real-life situation.

For more information about store safety, visit Berkley Asset Protection’s website.


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