It will never happen to me – but it did
LMI Group have been in the Melbourne office since May 2000. During that time, we have slowly improved our security as we’re always worried about holding commercially sensitive information for our clients and housing our services and so, we have ensured that our windows that did not face the main street were all barred, we have a back to base alarm system and 10 cameras. We attempted to dead lock our front door, however the current building code of Australia does not allow this as it has to always remain as a fire exit.
On Saturday evening, 9th July 2016 at 10.30pm while there was a great deal of traffic going down the street, a large piece of concrete was thrown through the front door and a burglar instantly entered by putting his hand through the hole he made through the laminated glass and pulling the handle. Despite the alarm going off, he remained in the building for 15 minutes. It took that long for the back to base alarm company to telephone me, but fortunately I live close by and fearing that it was a robbery and not a false alarm because of all the others that have been occurring around us, I rushed over, getting there approximately 15 minutes from when the thief first entered.
On my way over, I learnt from our alarm company that the rear access door had been activated and so I headed for there. Meanwhile, the thief was preparing a getaway through the rear door and had opened the door just to test that it did open. This meant that someone had left out of our building Friday afternoon without deadlocking it against company policy.
I also contacted the police and advised them a robbery was underway and I was about to arrive. Against their sound advice, I entered the building through the rear door screaming and shouting with the police on the phone. Unbeknownst to me, the thief had picked up a dagger that had only been put on display the very day before in our office. Fortunately, he dropped most things other than the dagger and whatever he had in his pockets as he ran for his life out of the building, right across the street, fortunately or unfortunately depending on what mood I’m in, he avoided getting hit by all the cars on the busy street too. He ran past his own vehicle, hid in a lane way to compose himself and then calmly walked back to his car and drove off just as the police arrived.
The thief had targeted in the first instance laptops and our petty cash tin. He then went back around a second time, I learnt this from watching the CCTV footage the following day, to collect smaller items such as pens that my son and I had collected over the years, often given to me as a thank you from a particularly happy client or for speaking at a conference or the like.
With the robberies that had occurred around us, I had a false sense of security, although there is always a doubt in your mind, that we were secure because of the security precautions we had taken. When it was tested we did find a number of things. First, the neighbouring houses behind us did not react to the alarms. There was a function only 4 doors down the road at a premises that was recently broken into themselves and they did not hear the alarm nor did their security guard out the front. The fact that there was a security camera clearly visible from the footpath in front of our building and the traffic on a busy road still did not deter the thief.
On the positive side, no data was lost, no one was injured, although my feet did get some glass in them from walking over the broken glass door, and we were fully insured.
We are now working with our security company, locksmith and a company that supplies 3M glass for anti-shatter glass film suppliers to beef up our security further and will fast track the upgrading of our front fence which we already have council approval to do.
I do not believe I am becoming more paranoid but there certainly is an increase in the level of crime all around Australia with car jackings, burglaries etc and I would urge everyone to have a fresh look at the security on your own premises, whether it is your home or business, and to double check your insurance program.
If you are unfortunate enough to have a burglary, the advice I would give is to run a virus check on all computers left behind and make sure there is no physical device such as a key logger that has been inserted into any of the machines. Another thing to check is if any house, business or car keys have been stolen.
I would finally like to sincerely thank the police officers who attended on the night. It is a dangerous and difficult job they undertake on behalf of society and we all owe them a great deal of thanks. The follow up police, including the detectives have all been very proactive and acted with compassion and a genuine desire to assist and catch the criminal involved. I know they get their fair share of criticism but from where I sit, none is deserved on the way they responded and treated my staff and I since. From their side, I think the police are pleased that we had so much footage and done so many enquiries, assisting our neighbours before our own attack and following, including checking all the local rubbish bins, gardens and sending off photographs of the more distinctive items to the likes of cash converters who we have done claims for in the past and have a relationship through their very helpful insurance broker.
The police were also impressed that all the computers and laptops we have recorded the serial numbers and have them clearly marked for identification as well as data encryption.
One thing that I have been meaning to write about before this event, but which has brought home to me, is when comparing our CCTV footage to our neighbours. Often people do not record on their system in the best and highest quality as they are trying to keep the surveillance for as long as they can. A poor quality video recording that does not pick up the number plate of cars etc is valueless. Hardware storage is cheap and if you’re going to the trouble of putting in cameras, record at the highest possible level and keep your back up disks off site.
The other thing that we did that assisted us was that because of the robberies around us, it prompted my son to walk around and take some photographs of the more valuable items in the office. Even then, it was not until I reviewed the video tape that I realised the dagger had been stolen and only knew this when I saw him with it in the thief’s’ hand.
The event has also reinforced to all our claims team just how it feels to be a victim rather than going out and looking at claims and there is certainly an emotional stress that none of us should forget to the victims of loss or damage, particularly as a result of a violent robbery or fire.