PawnSafes: Are They Worth It?

In 2008, I was the director of loss prevention and safety for a major chain of pawn stores in North America. This company experienced 127 armed robberies that year totaling more than $1 million in losses.The robberies occurred in various states throughout the company’s 1000+ North American locations. A large percentage of the robberies involved the loss of jewelry loans and cash from safes, which were usually located in the manager’s office.In 18 of these 127 robberies, either an employee or customer was injured during the robbery. One robbery resulted in a fatality.From 2003-2008, the company was averaging over $1 million in robbery losses per year, and the percentage of violent robberies was increasing.Options

Several options were presented to reduce the number of robberies, but most were neither practical nor cost efficient. Some examples included hiring armed guards or hiding jewelry loans throughout the store. It costs a lot of money to maintain armed guards week-in and week-out and having them could increase the level of violence at a store. Hiding jewelry loans throughout the store isn’t practical and violates insurance underwriting rules.

We agreed that the focus should not be on catching robbers but on preventing the robberies from ever occurring in the first place. In order to do this, we had to find a way to communicate to potential robbers that it was not worth their time to steal from our stores.

We developed and implemented a comprehensive robbery prevention program that included the following:

Pawnsafes -Through a major safe manufacturer, we found an insert that would fit inside a thirty minute or more, tool resistant rated safe. The insert had 35, 24-inch long drawers for jewelry and cash storage. Only one drawer could be opened at a time, and there was a time delay before the next drawer could be opened.

Training -We designed a training program for our employees that detailed how to use the new safe’s insert during business hours. The program detailed how many pieces of jewelry should be put in each drawer, how to lock the safe when the store was closed, and how to respond during an armed robbery.

Safe Locations -We wanted to let potential robbers know that that it was not worth stealing from our stores, so we moved the jewelry safe behind the sales counter, in full view. That way, when potential robbers conducted surveillance on the location, they would know that we didn’t have a normal safe. At that time, we were the only company in our industry to have a jewelry safe in full view of the public.

rolland safe
Image: From Rolland Safe

After only eight months of using the new safes, we saw a complete return on our investment. It did not take long for robbers to understand what they were up against, and the word got out to other potential robbers that it wasn’t worth robbing our stores.

From 2009 to 2013, we reduced robberies at our locations by 60 percent and violent robberies by 75 percent. During those five years, there was not one serious injury during an armed robbery, and jewelry and cash losses were reduced by over 70 percent. Most importantly, locations with the new program are now safer, which helped reduce our employee turnover due to robbery stress by over 85 percent.

Pawnsafes have now become the standard safe in most well-defined pawn robbery prevention programs. Currently, there are over 5000 used in over 3000 companies in North America alone.

It is important to have a detailed, proactive robbery prevention program in place that will not only protect your customers and employees but will also help reduce robbery losses. Fortunately, most pawnbrokers will never experience a jewelry loan robbery. Those who have understand the value of a PawnSafe. Would your business be able to survive a complete loss of your jewelry loan balance in a robbery?


Tony Gallo is the Senior Director of Sapphire Protection with over 30 years in the loss prevention, audit, safety, and risk/ emergency management fields. Follow him on Twitter at @SapphireProtect.



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