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We ask the State of Retail panel: What security measures do you have in place to prevent smash and grab theft?

Published March 10, 2020

Editor's note: A version of this story ran in the March issue of BRAIN, part of our series of articles about smash and grab thefts.

BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — For our March magazine edition, we asked our State of Retail panel members: "What security measures do you have in place to prevent smash and grab theft?"

SEATTLE: Christiaan Bourdrez, owner Ride Bicycles

Christiaan Bourdrez

For security, we start with a sign on the door while we are closed to warn would-be thieves about our security features. The measures we have in place include a metal bar roll-out, as well as a high quality, double-sided keyed deadbolt lock. We also have surveillance cameras that are motion activated. The one security feature that we do not have in place is a better quality alarm system. 

BOISE, Idaho: Diane Cutler, owner Spokey Joe’s Bikes & Gear

Diane Cutler

Unfortunately, theft is part of doing business. Keeping good inventory and records, getting the police involved immediately, and having insurance all help in managing the intrusion. Last summer, during our very first year in business, our shop was broken into. The good news is, the police retrieved our stolen goods within hours. 

We didn’t have an alarm system or any other security features in place at the time, but now we have cameras, glass-break sensors and door-entry sensors connected to an alarm. We also opted for a monitoring system that contacts the police when the system is triggered, and we have posted stickers prominently that state that the premises are monitored. 

The police told us about a window film that keeps the panes in place to prevent ingress if they are smashed. I want to do some research on the cost effectiveness of that, but it sounds like a good defense against smash and grab type theft. 

CHICAGO: Justyna Frank, co-owner Cosmic Bikes

Justyna Frank

At our shop, we have five large picture windows and glass doors. To prevent smash and grabs, when we leave at night we secure them with steel accordion gates. The gates are then secured with padlocks and due to the fact that there was a rash of thefts in Chicago last year, we've been double-locking the gates with U-locks. We also have a full security alarm system in place.

It’s worth noting that we haven’t experienced any smash and grab theft, but we were swindled out of a couple of bikes last summer by people using bogus credit cards. As a result, we've revised our policies and we now require that the billing and shipping addresses on each order must match, and we have a waiting period before we ship any bike in a non face-to-face transaction.

FULLERTON, Calif.: Mike Franze, owner Fullerton Bicycles and Buena Park Bicycles

Mike Franze

We were the victim of a pretty big rooftop break-in last year, so we have done everything in our power to implement the highest level of security we can afford. Prior to that break-in, we already had metal bars around the insides of all of our windows because our shop has a lot of glass. In the event of a smash and grab, thieves cannot get bikes out of the windows due to the bars. We also had sliding metal gates on our front doors, which we fastened during close up.

Since the rooftop break-in, we’ve additionally installed security cameras and motion sensors throughout our warehouse and shop, which are triggered to our alert systems on our phones. We’ve also put security lights on the rooftops, which are connected to cameras, in the event that somebody tries to break in through the roof again. All of our stores now have new additional padlock systems and scissor gates over the roll-up doors. Finally, we installed large concrete pipes adjacent to the building to prevent people from driving through the roll-up doors.

HOUSTON: Tad Hughes, owner Tad Hughes Custom Fit Studio

Tad Hughes

The main security measures that I have in place physically are glass film and double door locks. I have Historical District code restrictions on my building, and that prevents me from installing burglar bars, but that is a theft prevention measure that I think would be good to have.

The other important thing that I do for security is to work backwards through the process of an insurance claim from the perspective of the adjuster. In other words, I spend time up front on tasks like documentation, serialization, creation and itemization of invoices, etc., and I make sure to back up my records and have redundant equipment. 


BOULDER, Colo.: Brad James, owner Sports Garage Cycling

Brad James

We had a smash and grab just a few months ago in October 2019, and our shop lost 24 bikes. Since then, we are doing our best to protect the building, without feeling like we are in a prison. The steps we’ve taken are to place parking bollards in front of our overhead door, and install a retracting accordian security gate to cover our side door and window. We also installed a few bars inside isolated windows and added additional lighting on the exterior of the building.

Short of hiring night security or running cables through the bikes every night, which would scratch the finish, we feel pretty secure now. It’s important to make sure all your insurance information and coverage are up to date and that it matches your inventory. Having good inventory and serial numbers will also make the process of recovery go smoothly.

BROOKLYN, N.Y.: Joseph Nocella, owner 718 Cyclery and Outdoors

Joe Nocella

In our previous location, we had the very typical New York City metal roll-down gate. Although it's hard to count the number of times we were not broken into, suffice it to say, the gate was effective for nine years, as we have never had a robbery. The metal roll-down gate is a very common security measure here in NYC. However, smash and grab or even drive and smash break-ins just don't happen that much here.

Our new shop location does not allow for a metal roll-down gate due to the configuration of the storefront. Instead, we employ a security system that is monitored by the police that has motion detectors, door sensors and a few cameras. With a small shop that is less than 400 square feet, it's very easy to employ a tight system that is closely monitored.

SAN DIEGO: Mike Olson, owner Trek Superstore and Bike Gallery

Mike Olson

Most of our store locations have scissor gates that block the windows when we are closed. At night, we run a cable through the bikes that are racked near the front windows and doors to make it harder for thieves to smash and grab. Lastly, we use cameras. They don't prevent smash and grab, but they are important because they help us to see what happened when there was a theft, and sometimes find the perpetrator. One theft prevention measure that I think would be great to implement would be to place small tracking devices on expensive bikes. 

When it comes to theft prevention, there is no perfect (solution). Just try and make sure you are not the easiest place to steal from and have serial numbers and cameras. We have been able to identify bikes on Craigslist by having serial numbers, and cameras have identified people and vehicles, which really helped us recover from robberies.

CHICO, Calif.: Kate Sage, bicycle technician, and

Kate Sage

Theft has been an increasing problem for all bike shops in our area (Chico, Calif.). After a smash-and-grab scenario last summer, we installed shatter-proof film across our windows, which has been enough to prevent subsequent theft attempts from being successful. We also have a security alarm installed and cameras placed at key locations around the store. 

We’ve implemented just about every standard theft prevention measure currently available to us. However, we consistently experiment with store layout and product location to find the best way to discourage folks from helping themselves to our products. There are certain items such as lights, grips, and locks that tend to disappear more frequently, so we aim to keep those in clear view of our staff at all times.

We are privileged to have a close relationship with our local police department, and having eyes on the street have been very helpful in recovering stolen bikes. One of our police officers is a cyclist, and he’s become our go-to when we have security concerns. 

Topics associated with this article: Smash and Grab, From the Magazine, State of Retail

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