The Clarity Blog

5-Step Rooftop Burglary Procedure Criminals Use & What You Can Do to Stop Them

Rooftop burglary procedures

In 2019, the Jewelers Security Alliance received reports of 34 rooftop burglaries from 15 states, compared to 9 rooftop burglaries from seven states in 2018. In some cases, alarm systems, often without line security, were compromised. In others, when police responded to alarm signals, they were unable to detect any obvious signs of a break-in upon exterior inspection. Because they were unable to conduct an immediate internal search, it’s likely the burglars had either left the scene, were still inside the building, or on the roof.

So, what can business owners do to keep jewelry store burglary attempts at bay?

The criminals behind these crimes are professionals and to help keep this trend from reversing, jewelers need to be proactive in making rooftop burglaries tough to execute. Believe it or not, extensive casing is a precursor before criminals commit a crime such as a rooftop burglary. In fact, casing sometimes takes place months in advance of a break-in.

Each moment of the heist is planned and coordinated around observed lapses in security, which is why breaking down the criminals’ rooftop burglary procedure into five steps can help you identify areas of improvement for your security.

CRIMINAL ACTION #1: Casing of the interior and exterior of the premises

Before doing anything, criminals need to assess the layout of your store. To do this, they will try to get as up close and personal as possible – even visiting your store and posing as a potential customer! They will do their research from afar too. Usually, the first thing any burglar will want to establish is an escape plan from a protected premise that they can execute should anything go wrong during the burglary.

YOUR RESPONSE: Keep note of odd or peculiar occurrences with a suspicious incident logbook. Make sure to review your surveillance footage for any patterns around the suspicious incidents. Share any information you have with your local police and ask them to increase their surveillance of your neighborhood. Continue sharing your experiences with crime prevention networks, as your colleagues and neighbors may have encountered and reported similar incidents.


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CRIMINAL ACTION #2: Triggering false alarms and observing your response

Rooftop burglars will intentionally trigger alarm conditions at jewelry businesses to see who responds (if anyone) and how they respond. Remember, burglar alarms do not stop burglars — individuals responding to alarm signals and investigating the source of the alarm signal via a thorough search of both the exterior and interior of the protected premises stops burglars!

YOUR RESPONSE: Whether it’s once, twice, or 10 times, always respond to every alarm signal with the utmost urgency. To respond in the first place, be sure to have your alarm company inspect your system on an annual basis to ensure that all its components are working properly.

CRIMINAL ACTION #3: Cut an entrance though the roof and wait out the determined alarm response time

These criminals look for a remote and unobservable points of entry. They are counting on the fact that law enforcement officers dispatched in response to alarms will check doors for signs of forcible entry and not suspect they are working on the roof. They have all night to execute their burglary, so they will wait out the predetermined alarm response time patiently.

YOUR RESPONSE: Once again, your consistent and disciplined response is key, but never conduct a search of your store interior alone! In fact, arrange to meet local law enforcement to unlock your store and have them conduct a thorough interior investigation for the source of the alarm signal. Don't arrive at your business unless local law enforcement or a guard dispatched from your alarm service company is already there.

CRIMINAL ACTION #4: Disable the alarm and video surveillance systems

If they’ve gotten this far, criminals don’t want to leave a trail. An unexpected alarm going off could spoil their cover and getting captured on video could lead to their arrest later.

YOUR RESPONSE: Aside from having an alarm system that is UL-certified, you should make sure that your burglar alarm communication path is protected by line security. This guards against attempts to compromise the integrity of the communication path between your business and the monitoring facility. By installing additional motion detectors and video cameras above your ceiling tiles, you can detect would-be burglars who may be hiding there otherwise undetected during a basic search of the interior.

CRIMINAL ACTION #5: Get in and get out ... or stay all night

A burglar's objectives are made much easier when merchandise is left out of the safe and in plain sight. However, since criminals do their homework, they are prepared to spend hours in a jewelry business to compromise a safe. After monitoring response times or figuring out how to completely disable your alarm system, they will determine the level of security your safe or vault offers and what level of time and resources are needed to dismantle it.

YOUR RESPONSE: This brings everything full circle, because if you always follow a high standard of procedural security, criminals will know that there are probably easier targets out there. This begins with putting all your merchandise away at night in a safe or vault. Always opt for a safe rated highly by Underwriter's Laboratories, such as a TRTL – 30X6.

Even the most prepared business can struggle returning to normalcy after a burglary. Jewelers Mutual stands by its customers and the jewelry industry in moments of vulnerability through the complimentary Relieve counseling service, facilitating the healing process. 

For even more resources and services available to keep your jewelry business secure, visit JM™ Risk Services. JM Risk Services is a division of Jewelers Mutual Group dedicated to providing loss prevention education and solutions to the entire jewelry industry.


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Reducing Jewelry Crime Takes All of Us

Our commitment is to the safety and security of the jewelry industry. We encourage all jewelers to take collective action against crime and rethink your safety strategy. Increasing safety and security builds confidence with your customers to shop for jewelry without worry – further fueling the economy – as we continue to support, protect and grow jewelry businesses for the future. 

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This post was published in September 2016 and has been updated for accuracy.