Jewelry Store Burglars’ Getaway Foiled by Audio Intrusion Detection

By Ashley Willis

MARIANNA, Fla. — Police here are crediting an audio security system for helping them apprehend two intruders within three minutes after an attempted jewelry store heist.

Around 2:40 a.m. on June 9, two men attempted to enter Smith & Smith Jewelry through the two-story building’s rooftop, which activated a Sonitrol audio security system. As the burglars made their way downstairs to the shopping area, they began to panic as they saw flashing lights on an alarm panel, store owner Chuck Smith tells SSI.

Unbeknownst to the intruders, the system recorded the frazzled duo’s entire conversation as they argued over how to escape the premises before the police arrived at the scene. (You can listen to the audio below).

After wiping down their fingerprints, the pair exited the building the same way they entered. However, police had already arrived at the scene, three minutes after they received the initial call from the central station, and arrested the prowlers in an alley behind the store. Both men were charged with attempted burglary.

“They didn’t do any damage to the building or lift anything,” Smith says. “In fact, there was no physical evidence that anyone had actually been in the building, but we had the recordings. We’re still puzzled about what the break-in was all about. Who doesn’t know that a jewelry store has an alarm system?”

Even if police had not caught up with the would-be burglars, the trespassers would have not have left the premises with much loot, as the majority of the store’s merchandise was carefully locked away in a safe.

“We carry several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of merchandise,” Chuck Smith says. “Our insurance stipulates that at least 95% of that be put in our safe at night.”

For Sonitrol Northwest Florida Owner Doug Smith (no relation to the storeowner), the incident emphasizes the need for the industry to stop relying heavily on conventional alarm systems.

“This is an industry that has made a lot of money without police objecting to false alarms in the past,” he tells SSI. “Now officers are objecting to any alarm that’s not verified. My belief is that the industry needs to invest more on technology that will be worthwhile.”

Marianna Police Lieutenant Francis Davis, who investigated the incident, agrees, explaining that this was the first time in his 19 years with the department that he was able to solve a case with audio intrusion detection technology.

“As a cop, I wish that everyone had audio, plus video verification because that’s evidence,” he tells SSI. “I also suggest installing night vision cameras or infrared (IR) cameras to help see suspects, especially if the lights are off. If I had a business, I would surely have that type of equipment to protect my property and business.”

Doug Smith notes that audio intrusion detection technology has helped his company solidify its partnership with law enforcement by helping to conserve public resources by verifying alarmsbefore dispatching to authorities. In 2011, Tallahassee police responded to more than 9,000 false alarms; this year, police have already responded to 4,000 false alarms, which have drained police staff and resources. With those type of statistics, Smith believes that the industry needs to take a more hands-on approach to reduce false alarms, rather than relying solely on associations such as the Electronic Security Association (ESA) and the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC).

“The best way to work with law enforcement is through our actions,” he says. “Dialogue, ordinances and protectionism by dealers is not going to enhance our statute with law enforcement — it never has. I don’t think we’re going to paper over this problem with public relations efforts.”

Smith insists that he isn’t criticizing industry association endeavors; rather, he believes that eventually, all alarm companies, large or small, need to offer some type of alarm verification technology.

“I just want to do what I can to help carry the dialogue about the responsibility for being held accountable to improve our industry,” he says. “There are plenty of vendors out there other than Sonitrol that offer quality video verification services. They are not just always going to fit in an inexpensive, highly subsidized consumer-type alarm model that continues to stand at the forefront of what the industry tends to offer. But the solutions are out there.”

Listen to audio of the intrusion below:

Ashley Willis is associate editor for SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION. She can be reached at (310) 533-2419.

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