During the last week, there were two more stories of dealers being robbed. One occurred in Wichita Falls, Texas and the other in Parisippany, New Jersey. In both cases, the dealers stopped at a restaurant after the show ended, and had their windows broken to take what was in the car. The incident in Wichita Falls also involved an assault on the dealer and his wife.
Earlier this year, a coin dealer was robbed in Acton, Massachusetts after leaving a coin show in Westford. Also, a coin dealer from Jacksonville, North Carolina was robbed in Wilmington when he went to visit someone’s home he thought was interested in purchasing coins.
These incidents show that it is time for dealers to step up their security awareness and learn to protect themselves from the risks of robberies. Dealers with store fronts have a lot of options to protect their assets, although some have fatal ramifications. For the dealer who travels to and from shows, the security of their vehicle is very important.
During the holiday season we are reminded not to leave anything in the car that would invite someone to break in. Sometimes, you cannot fit everything in your trunk because between your clothes and inventory everything does not fit. Since many shows are one or two days, consider using a small, flat suitcase that could fit on the floor of the back seat and place it under the floor mats. It is not the best hiding place but it attracts less attention.
Aside from the usual precautions of locking doors and hiding the valuables, be particular where you park. Since thieves do not want to attract attention to themselves, park in well-lighted, crowded areas. Park close to the building especially close to the entry door. Avoid areas with trees and bushes that could be used to hide from view. Look around and think like a thief. If you can think of how to hide yourself around your car, then the thief can, too. Either find someplace else to park or another establishment for dinner.
Better security requires an investment into additional protection for your car. Car alarms are popular options and also the most hated. If not installed correctly, car alarms are prone to false alarms that can annoy everyone around. Since early car alarms did sound for seemingly no reason, some have learned to ignore them. However, the noise will draw attention to the car and scare away the thief breaking in to rob the contents. If you find an alarm with a distinctive sound you can also be quickly alerted if something happens. Car alarms range from the inexpensive that are installed by the car’s owner to a theft deterrent that could cost thousands of dollars. The website eHow.com has a good section about Car Alarm Systems to get you started.
Since many of these robberies start with someone smashing the car’s window, consider technologies that strengthen the windows. Bulletproof glass is an option, but that may be too expensive for many of us. An option is installing a laminate made from a material called polycarbonate thermoplastic over the windows. Polycarbonate thermoplastic laminates are thin, clear sheets that are sturdier than glass and does not break like glass. When installed over glass, the underlying glass will shatter but the laminate will remain intact. Thinner sheets will prevent break-ins while thicker or multiple layers can be use to make the glass bullet resistant. An auto service specializing in aftermarket add-ons for cars in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area said that it could cost from $600 to over $2,000 depending on the product used and the amount of window surface that has to be covered. There are local businesses in every major metropolitan area that can install these laminates.
Another security add-on that was recommended by the dealer was reinforced locks. A local locksmith described how easy it is to break into most cars just by using force in the right places–especially for the thief not interested in maintaining the car’s look. Although we rely on them to secure our cars, locks are a weak area in the metal and the ringed design around some locks can be pried off and the locks pulled out with a pair of pliers. Simple plates secured over the locks may act as a deterrent but may also advertise that the car may have something of value inside. Locksmiths and auto security companies can install tamper resistant locks and reinforce the area around the door, trunk, and tailgate latches to prevent someone from prying into your vehicle.
The downside to installing aftermarket tamper-resistant locks and reinforcing around the latches is that it will void the structural warranties of most vehicles. Also, poorly installed car alarms will not be covered by most vehicle warranties. Professional installation by a dealer or a qualified aftermarket seller can prevent these issues.
One call you should make is to your auto and business insurance companies. By increasing the security of your car, both insurance companies may offer discounts for lower their risk exposure. Laminates will prevent broken windows and potentially reduce the amount of money that would be necessary to fix your car to just the shattered glass and the laminate and not other items. Your business insurance may also find the lowered risk appealing since you have taken steps to prevent a potential loss. The savings may be an incentive to purchase better security for your car.
Finally, dealers must consider their situational awareness–what their surroundings look like and quickly assess what is around them. Some people may not think like this, but if you are going to carry expensive inventory and cash to and from a show you have to consider the environment. Thieves like the dark because it is easier to hide. Traveling in daylight is better than traveling during the night. But if you travel at night, stay in well lighted areas and crowded areas. What is the neighborhood like? Is it a travel stop that is used by a transient clientele? That type of movement is also inviting the thieves who knows that people traveling through those areas may have something worth stealing. Will you go into a restaurant where you cannot watch your car or should you consider a restaurant where your car is visible from within the restaurant?
Does the area "feel right?" Do you feel comfortable in the area? Are you worried about the strangers around you? What is your gut feeling? If you are not comfortable and just have that feeling that the area is not safe, go with that feeling and try another place. Consider bringing nonperishable snacks in the car so that if the first place you stop at makes you uncomfortable, you have something to tie you over until you find someplace with more comfortable surroundings.
Security is an ongoing process. Thieves will adapt and find other ways to rob you. But if you take the time to prepare yourself and pay attention to your surroundings, you should be able to reduce the risk of being robbed. Stay safe!
Scott Barman is a collector and author of the Coin Collector’s Blog (coinsblog.blogspot.com). When Scott is not playing with his coins, he works as an information security analyst in the Washington, DC area. In between all of that, he can be found with his wife and two puggles while they check out his pocket change.