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    Law Enforcement Discusses $2.3M Champagne Warehouse Theft

    Part I: Mission Impossible

    Last spring in the UK, a group of thieves boosted $2.3 million worth of the finest champagne in the world from the warehouse of Berry Bros. & Rudd, the wine merchants that supply the Royal Family. The audacious raid didn’t lack for style: the thieves paused to drink bottles of Moet & Chandon and Chateau LaTour before vacating the premises.champagne

    The case is still unsolved. Scotland Yard believes it to be an inside job and yet, somewhere along the line, at least one of the multiple security measures — cameras, alarms, laser beams — should theoretically have prevented the theft, but didn’t.

    Keith Lewis CargoNet In this three-part series, investigator and security expert Keith Lewis (at right), Vice President of Operations at CargoNet and Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent, breaks down the crime, discussing:

    • The security choices utilized
    • Employee and visitor screening best practices
    • Risk assessment tips for security directors and operations managers

    While Keith is working exclusively from information in English newspapers, he provides many takeaways for security directors everywhere regarding cargo theft and warehouse security.

    Assessing Risk at Berry Bros. & Rudd

    “Absolutely this is 100% an inside job,” Keith states categorically. But to his mind, the problems began earlier than the crime: the company likely hadn’t accurately configured their level of risk.

    A bioterrorism threat should have been considered. Keith states, “They are supplying alcoholic beverages to dignitaries, including the Queen of England and her guests. What if the thieves came in and didn’t steal anything, but injected something into the wine that the queen or some dignitary would drink? That’s a major food and beverage safety issue right there. ” From Keith’s perspective, that threat was reason enough why Berry Bros. should’ve invested more heavily in security.

    In addition, food, beverage and pharmaceutical companies need to consider recalls when assessing risk. The wine merchants will likely have to recall/remove millions more in product than what was stolen. Keith notes, “If you look back at the Eli Lilly burglary years ago, the same issues were at stake. While the case was solved, and the product recovered, the theft itself cost $34 million, but the damages were upwards of $76 million.” The vast curve was due to a major product recall as a result of the theft.

    The theft was also “entirely preventable”, in Keith’s eyes. While Berry Bros. & Rudd invested heavily in security products, their choices, in his eyes, were not optimal.

    The Mission Impossible Heist

    Around midnight last April, the gang drove their van right up to the warehouse and either used a ladder or climbed onto the van to redirect a CCTV camera outside the building. They subsequently used power tools to cut a 4’ by 4’ hole, mere inches away from laser beams. Once inside, they stayed beneath the beams and made their way to where the finest vintages are stored, high above the ground. Using wine crates like building blocks, they stacked their way up and spent 3 hours passing bottles down a human chain, out of the building, and into their van.

    Keith first addresses the cameras, alarms and laser beams. “That stuff didn’t work. I don’t have a lot of use for them. Cameras do not prevent crime, cameras offer documentation. It’s a picture with a timed and dated stamp. Cameras are not going to prevent the theft unless the camera system is intelligent and picks it up. But these guys probably disabled all of it going in, so that was not going to happen. Was anybody monitoring the cameras? Probably not. It was probably a videotape system.”

    Keith explains how easily the laser beams were compromised. “While the warehouse was open, somebody went out the back door to take the trash out or whatever, looked at the beam, and drew a line with a grease pencil of where the beam lands, top and bottom. Then they used Windex to wipe off the grease marks.”

    Security Products That Work

    So what would Keith have recommended instead? Keith’s answer is categorical. “Security is multilayered: starting at the perimeter, it is an electric security fence or intelligent cameras with real-time monitoring.”

    Berry Bros. & Rudd Warehouse

    Keith continues, “I look at this facility on Google Earth, I see no fence, no gate; you can just drive up and help yourself. I see trucks parked right against the facility. I see water towers those usually have ladders and can be used to access the roof  and it looks to be right next to the highway. Thieves love that, because if police do show up, they can get away easily. This facility absolutely needed to have perimeter security. If you can deter the thieves for say 15 minutes, they will go elsewhere. These guys really didn’t care about stealing wine and champagne; this was about making money.”

    The choice not to include perimeter security in warehouse security protocols is common, even in the U.S., Keith explains, “Guy I know drives around a major city here all the time and, knowing I’m in law enforcement, he asked me once, ‘I don’t see any gates or fencing around these warehouses. Is there some city ordinance that prevents people from putting in a fence, because they don’t want people to think the area is riddled with crime?’ Well, no. Frequently there is no city ordinance. You need a security fence around the facility if you are going to put high-value or high-risk product inside. I push Electric Guard Dog and that goes back to my days as a rookie patrolman. You can put an electric security fence on the roof [of a warehouse] too.”

    “You also have to have a human element. Why wasn’t there a guard inside the building with that value of product inside? It’s the UK, obviously, so you’re not going to have an armed guard, but how about a guy with a big stick and a cell phone? If you cannot afford a guard at the location, upgrade to an electric security fence and an intelligent camera system with monitoring. Given the high-level risk at this facility, there should be an outside fence and a guard. The security choices are not a complicated fix here.”

    Keith’s security prescription isn’t limited to high-value targets like vintage wines, either. If you are storing goods that are low value but high risk for theft, warehouse theft is a concern. Keith elaborates, “Dishwashing detergent. It is very valuable because it is not traceable, it is consumable and everybody needs it. When it is stolen, we never get it back because once it comes off the trailer or out of the warehouse, we can’t prove it was stolen. I have never seen a serial number on a box of Tide, so you have got to have perimeter security.”

    But there is more to the Berry Bros. Warehouse Raid…someone with inside knowledge of the warehouse provided them with help.

    Was it a visitor, or an employee? What more could warehouse security have done? Stay tuned for more of Keith’s recommendations on employee and visitor screening in our next installment.

    Read Lifting LaTour Part II and Part III in our series.

    Subscribe to our blog to follow this three-part series and other EGD updates.

    About Keith Lewis

    Keith Lewis is Vice President of Operations at CargoNet, responsible for managing operational efforts that include the supervision of operations center staff, investigative support and system training for CargoNet members.

    With 20 years’ experience as an operations manager in the transportation division of one of the country’s largest 3PLs, in 2000, Keith left the logistics industry to pursue a career in law enforcement, where he worked as a Task Force Agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Keith has a BS in Criminal Justice and continues to be an active agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, assisting them with undercover and sting operations.

    About CargoNet

    CargoNet is dedicated to preventing cargo theft and increasing recovery rates through secure and controlled information sharing among theft victims, their business partners, law enforcement and NICB. The organization features a national database and an information-sharing system managed by crime analysts and subject-matter experts. CargoNet applies an integrated, layered approach that includes: integrated databases, a theft alert system, a task force and investigations support, a tractor-trailer theft deterrence program, driver education, crime trend analyses and loss control services, as well as training, education and outreach.

    About Electric Guard Dog

    Electric Guard Dog, LLC, the #1 Theft Deterrent Service™, is the nationwide market leader in electric security fencing. In a 2010 independent survey, 95% of their customers stated they've had NO external theft since installing Electric Guard Dog electric security fence system.

    A security partner for 3,000+ commercial and industrial locations across the nation, they provide a safe and effective solution to protect businesses from cargo theft and copper theft, and a safer work environment for employees, all while reducing total security costs.


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