Luxury jewellers and watch shops are employing former special forces and retired police officers to help protect their stores and staff from a wave of violent robberies in central London.
Mappin & Webb on Regent Street, Watchfinder in Mayfair and Boodles in Chelsea have all been attacked in the past two months by armed gangs using mopeds to swoop in and getaway at speed.
London’s Evening Standard newspaper has spoken to one of the crack security guards, who gave his name only as Seyed, and is a former commando.
He confronted one of the gang trying to escape after the Mappin & Webb raid despite him wielding a machete in his direction.
“I am highly trained, I was a commando and an officer, I am not scared of these people,” the guard told Evening Standard reporters John Dunne and Justin Davenport.
A specialist team from security firm UK Protection is reportedly employed to defend Mappin & Webb, Goldsmiths and Watches of Switzerland, all owned by Aurum Holdings.
UK Protection’s head of operations, Marc Jacobs, would not talk about the specifics of how the company’s teams work, but described: “Our staff are all ex-police officers and ex-military who are trained to the highest standard.
“They have close protection security licenses and carry out surveillance on the stores and can intervene if a robbery takes place.”
Some industry experts say that much more needs to be done to make it harder for criminals to sell stolen watches and jewellery. Executives speaking to WatchPro last week said that their primary focus is to ensure their staff are not harmed, so they are trained to find a safe place rather than confront anybody raiding a shop. “We can insure the contents of a shop and the welfare of our people is much more important,” one said.
Nobody would argue with this approach, but another executive said much more could and should be done to make it more difficult for criminals to sell stolen goods and wants retailers to have much better records of watches so they can be traced. At the moment, initiatives like Safer Gems, which is coordinated by the National Association of Jewellers in conjunction with insurance company TH March, is not widely used by the major multiples operating in big cities.