Brazen Physical Thefts
Three brazen robberies are in the news this week.
The first was a theft at a small museum of gold nuggets worth $750,000:
Police said the daring heist happened between daytime tours, during a 20-minute window. Museum employees said the thief used an ax to smash the acrylic window, and then left the ax behind.
“He just grabbed it, threw in bag and over a fence he went,” Richard Hauck said, adding that there were no surveillance cameras operating at the time.
The second was at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York:
But now, the thieves have shattered the sense of security at the hotel, following the daring smash-and-grab around 2 a.m. Saturday in the middle of the hotel’s spectacular lobby.
The three thieves walked right into the hotel, and one pulled a sledgehammer and smashed the Jacob & Co. case right next to the front desk. They made away with some very expensive jewelry.
The thieves then made a quick getaway with the stolen watches, necklace, earrings, cufflinks and pendants—with a total value reported at $2 million.
And the third was the largest—$50 million in diamonds stolen from the Brussels Airport:
Forcing their way through the airport’s perimeter fence, the thieves raced, police lights flashing, to Flight LX789, which had just been loaded with diamonds from a Brink’s armored van from Antwerp, Belgium, and was getting ready for an 8:05 p.m. departure for Zurich.
Waving guns that the Brussels prosecutors’ office described as “like Kalashnikovs,” they calmly ordered ground staff workers and the pilot, who was outside the plane making a final inspection, to back off and began unloading scores of gem-filled packets from the cargo hold. Without firing a shot, they then sped away into the night with a booty that the Antwerp Diamond Centre said was worth around $50 million but which some Belgian news media reported as worth much more.
I don’t have anywhere near enough data to call this a trend, but the similarities are striking. In all cases, the robbers barreled straight through security, relying on surprise and speed. In all cases, security based on response wasn’t fast enough to do any good. And in all cases, there’s surveillance video that—at least so far—isn’t very useful.
It’s important to remember that, even in our high-tech Internet world, sometimes smash-and-grab still works.
EDITED TO ADD (3/13): A similar case from The Netherlands.