Brazen Retail Smart Phone Robberies

How does your retail high security system stack up to the smash-and-grab threat?

Apple stores. Retail mobile phone stores. Consumer electronics stores. Retail stores showcasing expensive smart phones aren’t just hits, they’re now hit-and-run victims. Phones, stolen, faster than you can say “I’d like another macchiato grande please.” More reasons to order online instead.

Phones & Tablets — Too Mobile

Grab-and-runs. Smash-and-grabs. These brazen retail robberies play out like a movie script, but they’re all real.

  • Robbed! A gang of hooded youths storm an Apple store. Twelve seconds later they escape with thousands worth of top-of-the-line mobile phones. Four days later, they return and do it again. $100,000 worth of merchandise reported stolen from multiple San Francisco Apple stores. Police are still searching for suspects. — CBNBC International
  • In just seconds, thieves made off with more than $10,000 worth of Apple devices…. One Los Angeles store experienced three robberies in 8 days. — CBS This Morning
  • It’s not just Apple stores. Best Buy, Verizon, T-Mobile stores were burglarized sometimes within a mere hour of each other. — ABC News, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

USA. Europe. Australia. Multiple robberies in an area. Multiple hits on the same store. Just plain robbery? Or organized retail crime (ORC)? It’s your worst nightmare, because the threat is real.


Big Picture: Organized Retail Crime – Increasing

Just how bad is it?

Break-in Dynamics- What You Need to Know

This is what a store theft may look like in today’s high value phone environment.

Here’s the gist of a typical break-in modus operandi… The store is cased, scoping out…

  • What’s stocked
  • Where it’s located in the store
  • How it’s merchandised
  • How it’s secured
  • When store personnel is lightest or most preoccupied

A team of three or more suspects enter the store. Their faces are obscured with hoodies or caps. They use a hammer to break a display, or wire cutters to cut a cable, or basic brute force to get what they want. Within 10-20 seconds, they’re running out the door, with two to five smartphones or tablets each, following their previously established get-away plan.

The stolen goods are delivered. The thieves are paid. They move on to their next hit.

The goods are fenced. Or they’re broken down into their components and sold on eBay to electronics chop shops that remake phones, tablets and other electronics and sell them through gray and black markets.

In Europe, these crimes are even more rampant, and more tightly organized. Teens are tapped from one country, flown in for a day of theft, paid and flown home that day.

Meanwhile, back at the store, customers and staff are traumatized. Police are called in. When the store is exceptionally well-prepared and lucky, usable video is quickly accessed and provided. Reporting the crime and filling out reports eats more precious time. Customers fall by the wayside, as staff is tapped, seriously rattled and demos are unavailable for use. Replacing the demos takes three business days. If the store merchandising was destroyed, another month to replace that $5,000 display table. The store’s best salesperson decides it’s time try a non-retail sales job. It’s a month before the store breaks-even from their losses. Another month to return to profitability. Another six months to approach former business levels. That’s if the store, now pegged as an easy hit, doesn’t get robbed again.

Phone Companies and the Law – Not Cutting It

Perhaps you’ve heard stolen phone service is disabled. Or that demos can’t be re-used since Apple and Samsung added additional demo system security features. That phone makers and providers got this problem nailed.

Not so fast….

  • A $1,000 phone’s parts can be sold over e-Bay to chop shops for nearly $1,300. The sum is greater than the parts, even when the phone itself isn’t re-used.
  • “There’s clearly an easy way to make money off these phones, which is what is driving this,” Sgt. Joel Roon with the Michigan Kent County Sheriff’s Department told ABC News, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Thousand Oaks California Detective Ted Stern admits this crime is still on the upswing. “We get at least one grab-and-run cell phone robbery reported a month.“ Store staff and citizen intervention helps, but Stern can’t encourage it; that’s when thefts are more likely to turn violent. Until the unlikely event the market for stolen goods is eliminated, arrests and Convictions simply clear the territory for more savvy perpetrators.

Prevention – So what do you do?

Are you an inviting target? Protect your merchandise before the wrong element walks or runs through the door by deterring attempts before they start.  Prepare your store and staff with these 4 tips for stopping phone theft, with savvier store layouts, special staff training, highlighting anti-theft protection and more robust security devices.

But as thieves become more brazen, it may just come down to the strength of your smart phone retail security solution. Will your store’s retail high security system support or thwart a smash-and-grab attempt?

Mark R. Doyle, President of leading security consultant firm, Jack L. Hayes International, Inc. advises “If you display phones customers can handle and try out, tethering or cabling is a must. Retailers should research and test to see what works best in their environment and how they display their phones.”

While the problem is on the rise, loss prevention experts can spell out specific steps you can take to protect your store, making would-robbers easier targets.

“It’s a psychology game,” concludes MTI VP of Products & Strategy, Travis Hooper. “Duration of time and providing audible alarms are the best deterrent. If it takes too long and draws attention, it’s not worth it. The would-be thieves will move on to an easier heist.”

MTI is a global leader in retail security services with over 40 years experience offering premium security, merchandising, and retail IoT solutions chosen by the world’s largest brands.

Contact MTI today to deter sophisticated phone thieves from targeting you and for an anti-theft consultation.

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