Safe Heist Highlights Combination of Errors

Burglars make off with more than $800,000 and expose an alarm system’s shortcomings in the process. The break-in of a jewelry store’s safe leaves lessons in its wake on how alarm contractors can lessen liability exposure.

How can an alarm contractor proactively minimize loss while ensuring the security systems it designs, installs and monitors will be adequate in the context of its environment? Similarly, how can an alarm contractor predictably identify vulnerabilities in a premises’ overall security? An actual case history of an $800,000 jewelry store heist offers some answers.

What you are about to read illustrates what an alarm contractor needs to do before a loss occurs. It also covers how an installing alarm systems and monitoring services provider can minimize its own liability as well as help protect the subscriber’s assets — all the while providing a security system that will serve its intended purpose.

Crooks Break Through Store’s Wall

The jewelry store at the center of this case relied on both its electronic and physical protection strategies to thwart anyone who might attempt to steal its high-value merchandise. However, a forensic investigation after the burglary revealed a multitude of serious defects and irregularities in the overall design, application, installation and monitoring of the existing security system. Further, the alarm contractor deceptively concealed these issues from the owners. 

The perpetrators first focused on forcibly gaining entry into another store directly adjacent to the jewelry store operation. Once inside, they then carefully and repeatedly punched and/or drilled holes into the “protected premises’” common wall areas, in an obvious attempt to locate the jeweler’s safe that was located in the rear of the store.

During one point of their probing the burglars pushed out a large piece of drywall as they tried to determine the safe’s location relative to theirs from within the adjacent common area and store. At no time during the intrusion did the thieves ever attempt to cut the jewelry store’s telephone lines, nor did they make a hole large enough in the common wall of the premises to physically gain entry and walk into the store.

Investigative findings revealed that their plan was to locate the safe, and then focus on two of its major vulnerabilities. One being that the safe was butted up directly against the common wall area of the store. Two, the electronic protection for the safe was connected to wiring that was not only accessible but was overtly exposed and clearly leading to the security system’s initiating detection device that was purported to protect the safe.

Once the intruders pinpointed the store’s safe from the other side of the common area and neighboring business, they then attacked the alarm system. They cut a hole in the common wall and reached in to physically “short out” the normally closed protective loop circuit that was running to this critical detection point (CDP) of the safe.


Safe Was Insufficiently Protected
Interestingly, and obviously unbeknownst to the perpetrators, the only protection for the safe was in actuality no protection at all. There was only a standard UL-Listed door contact installed on the safe’s door, a device never listed or intended for safe protection or use. Since the method of attack was to penetrate the safe’s side wall, there was no technical reason for the intruders to target and/or circumvent the protective loop circuit for the standard door contact.

However, the intruders were clearly concerned their forcible entry on the safe’s side wall might somehow be detected by the store’s security system and, in turn, summon the police. Notably, the “shorting out” of this protective loop circuit did not activate the store’s security system. With unimpeded time and opportunity, the burglars were then able to penetrate the side wall of the safe and remove all of its contents.

When the store’s owners arrived to open up their shop, not only were they shocked at what they found but also that the security system had completely and unilaterally failed to protect them. It is important to note the intruders also used some type of foam around most of the edge of the safe. This apparently was an attempt to keep any smoke and/or debris “inside” and from being able to enter any of the “protected space” of the jewelry store.

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About the Author


Jeffrey D. Zwirn, CPP, CFPS, CFE, FACFEI, CHS-IV, SET, CCI, FASI&T, MBAT, writes Security Sales & Integration’s “Security Science” column. He is also president of IDS Research and Development, an alarm and security consultation, expert witness and training authority providing nationwide services on all issues related to alarm and security matters. He can be reached at 800-353-0733.

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