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Security and the gun shop.


On the night of January 21, 1989 a pick-up truck was slammed through the side wall of the Accuracy Gun Shop in San Diego, California. Who could ever have imagined that anyone, so intent on stealing firearms, would take such drastic, such overtly flagrant measures to accomplish their aims. And who could ever foresee such an Arnold Schwarzenegger-commando-style break-in, let alone prepare or protect against it?

Granted, this event was one of those bizarre, but luckily rare cases which make the 10 or 11 o'clock news across the nation. But it calls to mind the ever present danger of burglary of firearms from America's gun shops. More frighteningly, it calls to mind the fact that this may be the direction such break-ins and burglaries may be headed. But what it should call to our minds is the importance of a good, sound assessment of the state of security of each and every one of the gun shops in America at this very moment.

Security to any retailer is serious; if he sells guns, it becomes deadly serious. Everyone associated with the shooting industry is, and is expected to be particularly concerned with the importance of security. They can either set the example for the community, or be held responsible to it.

In preparation for this article, I talked with retailers, security equipment suppliers and installers, law enforcement agencies, insurance agents, security and protection specialists and consultants. Each and every one of these professionals approached the topic of security from just a slightly different angle. Yet in the end, everyone arrived at the same conclusion; security is something which we must all be on constant alert to maintain. Each one of these professionals is keenly aware of, and experienced in those security problems which are particular to, and/or complicated by the selling of firearms, Each one provided a wealth of information relating to their particular security expertise. This collaboration by these experts should give the firearms retailer a well-rounded look at security and the gun shop. In most communities there are similar experts and professionals who can provide you with invaluable, often free advice and assistance with your security situation.

Basically, everyone agrees that security breaks down into two general headings: Protection and Prevention. You might think of them as the Defense and the Offense.

Under the heading of Protection, or Defense, we are dealing with the problems of shoplifting, burglary, robbery, break-in, vandalism and any other action which results in loss or damage. (Keep in mind that security extends to fire protection. A fire can cost you far more than a burglary.)

Under the heading of Prevention, the Offense, we must concern ourselves with safety. We must be constantly safety-conscious with respect to the merchandise we have on hand, as well as the safety or our sales staff, our customers, our neighbor stores and our neighborhood in general. We must also be concerned with the safe use and safe keeping of the merchandise we sell, and its continued safe keeping once it leaves our store. In short, we must be responsible for safety before, during and long after the sale of sensitive merchandise.

Take a minute of two to assess your current security status. Look around, walk around, ask around; do you, or any member of your staff find any weaknesses in your circle of defense? Are there any safety risks or potential hazards just lying in wait? Here, then, are some thoughts and ideas which I hope will get you to assess your present state of security, and at the same time, suggest where, how and from whom to get help to maximize its efficiency and effectiveness.

Who Can You Turn To?

Who is more concerned with, and experienced in security than your local law enforcement agencies? They are the ones you're going to ultimately turn to and depend on in security matters, so why not bring them in right from the start?

Following my own advice, I began my research by contacting Sgt. Roland Naauao of the Community Relations Division of the Honolulu (Hawaii) Police Department. (That's H.P.D., to you, Danno.) As Sgt. Naauao explained, most all police departments throughout the country are prepared to provide information and special services geared to help the retailer maintain the highest, most effective security necessary. Working with each other, and together, saves them both a lot of time, trouble and problems.

H.P.D., like most local law enforcement agencies, has developed a program through their Community Relations Division to send a team of experts to the retail outlet to analyze and advise, at the request of the retailer. Such inspections not only provide the retailer with a thorough evaluation of the state of the store's security, but are also valuable for insurance purposes, according to Mr. Ernest Wong of the Hawaii Insurance Company. Many insurance companies offer discounts commensurate with higher degrees of security measures taken.

H.P.D.'s initial visit is generally a standard building security check. The first thing the team considers is the neighborhood. The location and logistics of the store may have quite a different effect on the precautions necessary to protect it. Is the shop in a busy, well-lighted, well-protected area, or a "high risk" area? Next, the team considers the perimeter. Is there easy access in and out of the store--for customers, for the criminal, for the police when called? Are there easy escape routes; multiple exits, back doors, alleys, windows in the stockroom, et cetera? What about the condition and construction of the building itself? Are windows and doors safe and secure? Is the roof strong? Are the walls strong? All these and many more questions are brought up during this exterior inspection.

Inside, the second portion of the security check, the team is more concerned with safety and safe keeping: physical safety for staff and the public, safe keeping of products, property and profits. How is the store laid out and set-up? Is it dark and cluttered or bright and open? Can customers be easily seen at all times? Is sensitive or dangerous merchandise kept behind the counter and/or locked? Is anyone (customers, staff, vendors) liable to be injured? Is the workshop completely safe? Is there evidence of sec urity equipment: mirrors, cameras, alarms, locks, security guards?

Having inspected the store, inside and out, the team is now able to analyze your overall security situations: where you're strong, where you're weak, and offer assistance and advice to improve, increase and maintain the best security for your particular needs.

These and similar criteria are taken into consideration by most insurance companies as well. They generally require just such an inspection, perhaps under their own direction, before a policy is considered. Complying with many of the suggestions from the police, and/or fire marshall, may help in reducing insurance rates in the long run. Your insurance representative may also be a good source for tips on developing, or improving security.

In addition to this "on premises" inspection/evaluation. H.P.D., like most police departments, offers many other programs which can greatly benefit the retailer. They are prepared to set up classes or workshops on crime prevention, personal defense and safety or emergency action (to name a few), for staff and employees or individual businesses. They can provide published material dealing with security for you or your customers. They can assist in developing cooperation between stores in the same locale or united in a community network. They are, in short, your first and best security contact and they strongly encourage retailers to call upon them.

Just What Type of Protection Is Available?

Having been advised as to how much protection a gun shop should have, the next step must be to find out what protection is available from the security industry. What equipment is available to protect not only the store, but also the people and products in it?

"Because there are so many choices of security systems, and such a wide range of costs, it is most important that you first pin point what you want to protect," says Mr. Constantinau, of Digi-Tech Alarm Systems Company, Honolulu. "Security is a necessary expense, so you want the most effective, and at the same time, the most cost efficient.

"Perhaps the most essential piece of equipment in the case of a gun shop is a very strong safe with an alarm." Mr. Constantinau places a tremendous amount of importance on alarms and alarm systems. But keep in mind that a lot of noise may frighten away some, but not all.

An alarm, whether audible or silent, should always be monitored; that is, provide a connection between the site of the alarm and at least one other location. It can be from sales floor to office, from store to neighboring store, to the police, to a private security service or to the owner's home. The ideal alarm should connect the store's system with at least one other off-premise monitoring station.

As far as what systems are available, Mr. Constantinau broke them down into a few, logical groups: breaking in the store, breaking into the case and breaking into the "till".

Protection From The Outside

To protect against breaking into the store, there are systems which respond to broken glass called foiling (strips of alarm tape around the glass); window bugs, which sense vibrations when glass breaks; and sound discriminators, which respond to the sound of glass breaking.

To protect against entry through doors and windows (other than broken glass), there are magnetic contacts and even locks which are activated when anything but the proper key is used.

Protection On The Inside

There are three basic systems to protect the inside of the store. Infra-red sensor systems, which detect and distinguish body heat, are preferred by 80 to 90 percent of the industry. The newest or latest, state-of-the-art, infra-red system provides a curtain of protection, through which nothing goes undetected. Ultra-sonic systems operate on the principle of sound waves. The third basic system, using microwaves, establishes a dual beam web of protection. (Mr. Constantinau was not amused by me "cook the crook" remark, referring to the microwave system, although Sgt. Naauao loved it.)

Protection For The Till

The best protection against "breaking into the till", or more generally, against situations which endanger people such as holdups or any form of armed confrontation, is a silent alarm system. Someone intent on a hold-up or robbery will be alert to deliberate action on the part of the staff, such as going for the alarm. What is necessary is the inconspicuous action through special devices. A good security equipment supply store can suggest and provide a variety of such devices. Popularly called "panic buttons", these devices enable sales personnel or staff members to alert the rest of the store without the knowledge of the person confronting them.

Many of these systems may cost as little as $150, initially, and then only a minimum monthly monitoring service charge. The beauty of all these systems--in fact, of security equipment in general--is that they can be combined, added to and integrated into a security network for greater and greater protection.

Do-It-Yourself-Type System

In many cases, the store's own staff can design and install an effective security system themselves.

"We cater to the do-it-yourselfers", says James Harrow, alarm systems specialist and president of the Security Alarm System of Honolulu. Suppliers and equipment for most alarm systems are not overly priced. Harrow, like most good security equipment supply companies, carries many kits for various alarms which can be effectively installed by simply following the instructions. "Everything you would need to install a system in an average size store or home would cost in the neighborhood or $250. For us to come in and install the same system, you're looking at over $800."

One group that did design and install their own system is King's Sporting Goods, run by Mr. Henry Thom. The entire premises of King's is secured within an alarm network which the members of the staff of King's have developed together on their own premises, in their own gun repair workshop. "Every alarm and every device we used has been developed right here, to be used right here", says Mr. Thom.

King's Sporting Goods is Honolulu's oldest gun shop, founded by Mr. Thom's father in 1913. Over the years the management and staff of King's have learned a great deal about the special security necessary for a shop like their's simply through experience. They are quick to recognize where the system is weak, where it needs improvement and how to go about solving the situation by developing an idea, a device, a system, a method or a policy to deal with it. "Our whole staff gets together to discuss the matter, come up with the idea, go up to the workshop and develop it into a workable system." Here is a perfect example of a do-it-yourself, customized security system.

One such development is a device the people at King's created which instantly bolts the doors, on signal, preventing them from being opened. The device makes it possible to detain or prevent a shoplifter (snatch and run) from escaping the store. "It works!" says Mr. Thom, with a big grin, as he holds up a stack of arrest and conviction reports.

As evidenced by the door device, Mr. Thom does not depend strictly on his alarm system for total security. Even though his display cases are wired into the alarm system, setting off a buzzer whenever a case door is open, they all have a small cotter key for further security. Similarly, even though the display windows and entry doors are thoroughly integrated into the perimeter alarm system, they are reenforced with sheets of a clear plastic material called Lexan. The Lexan is absolutely shatter-proof, and almost self-mending, as it shrinks back when pierced by, say, a bullet. "There has been evidence of people trying to break in since the Lexan was installed, they just didn't succeed."

Another simple idea which yields dual benefit is lighting. Good lighting all around a store, after hours, can be a retardant for anyone relying on cover of darkness. It facilitates surveillance, vis a vis, the patrolmen are able to see into the store and easily spot anything irregular. As a side benefit, "it works like advertising, letting people see what you have in the store, as they pass by, 24 hours a day. That may entice them to come back during normal business hours," says Mr. Thom, and adds: "In the long run, it turns out to be a very inexpensive form of security, and it's already in place: ready to start using."

So much for the protection side of the coin; I'm sure you get my drift, and can seek and find all you'll need in the way of security devices by following the same train of thought. What needs just as much attention, and sadly does not get nearly enough in far too many cases, is Prevention.

The Prevention side of security, the Offense, is primarily concerned with safety; safety when handling firearms, when selling firearms and when maintaining firearms -- that is, once they become the property of the customer -- safety beyond the gun shop.

Cyrus Lee, owner of another Honolulu gun shop. Security Equipment Corp., offered a lot of common sense measures to increase security and at the same time assure safety. "Placement of your merchandise and store fixtures is very important for security." For example, like most stores, all "controlled substances" are located behind the counters and toward the rear of the store, leaving nothing dangerous on the self-serve areas of the sales floor. Racks and gondolas are kept low (nothing extending higher than four-and-a-half feet), and perpendicular to the doors. The object is to keep the store well lighted and as free of obstruction as possible. This high visibility keeps both shop-lifting and insurance rates down.

Clear visibility at King's is an important feature of Mr. Thom's office; located on the mezzanine, overlooking the entire sales floor. Prior planned placement of the business office or even just the sales counter can be a deterrent to shoplifters, especially if raised or placed with a commanding, not to mention intimidating view of the sales area.

Using Some Common Sense

Common sense goes a long way in promoting safety, but it is wise for the retailer to spell things out in the form of a store, or company policy, so that each member of the staff can read and refer to safety hints from time to time. The "obvious" way may not always be so obvious to everyone -- for example, new sales people, new customers or even friends of customers. Most stores follow the same basic rules: show only one item at a time; never have firearms and ammunition out at the same time; stand back when the customer is handling a firearm; never leave a customer alone, with a firearm; and above all, know who you are dealing with and selling to. Staff and sales people must always be alert. They must always be safety as well as security conscious.

We'd all be hard pressed to find a gun shop that didn't care about safety, or security under its own control--under its own roof so to speak. But what about that very real and very sensitive problem of responsibility for the merchandise you have sold once it leaves the store, when it becomes the property and the responsibility of the purchaser? Recent, tragic events have made not only the shooting industry vividly aware of what can happen, but also the broad and general TV watching public. Right or wrong, the firearms retailer is being held responsible for what they sell, long after they have sold it.

You can't wrap-up a guardian angel with every firearm you sell. But, like all the other elements of over-all security, there is a way to get help. There is no end to the amount of free literature, pamphlets, videos, seminar material and other printed material available to you to give to your customers. Your local police, gun clubs, military and security units, firearms distributors and manufacturers as well as the NRA can more than likely provide you with all the materials you wish.

Contact them and make sure you have plenty of material on hand, and most of all, stress the importance of safety and security to your customers.

Safety and security is something we can never take lightly. If anything, their importance is increasing. Re-examine your state of security NOW and OFTEN. Get as much help as you can to strengthen your security. Get it from wherever or whomever you have to, to get it right. But for God's sake, get it before it's too late.

PHOTO : Above, exterior view of side wall at Accuracy Gun Shop in San Diego, Calif., after robbers staged a commando-type break-in. Below, interior view of the break-in, clearly showing the mess that was made.

PHOTO : Door device, which can be activated by an indoor button, that can trap the thief inside the store until police arrive.

PHOTO : Interior of Security Equipment Corporation store. Notice the easy visibility of the inside of the store...low racks and gondolas, controlled merchandise behind counters and toward back of store. There are few obstructions, so employees can view customers at all times as well as policemen seeing within store easily at night.

PHOTO : Henry Thom shows how he can activate the spiked door device by pressing buzzer button on sales floor.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Publishers' Development Corporation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:store security
Author:Rasmussen, Tom
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Jun 1, 1989
Previous Article:Riding the rapids of today's economy: how to make the most of your firearms store's resources in challenging times.
Next Article:Let's get down to cases ... gun cases that is.

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