Predictably, with the Derek Chauvin trial in progress just a dozen miles away, the police shooting of unarmed Daunte Wright April 11 in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, sparked public outrage and ignited violence. Reminiscent of summer 2020 after the killing of George Floyd, retailers bore the brunt of the rage, with masked looters breaking into dozens of stores. But several businesses, including one liquor store, managed to escape significant damage, having taken steps in the interim to avoid a replay of the looting and destruction.
Three months earlier, the store invested in DefenseLite®, quarter-inch polycarbonate security overglaze anchored onto its existing windows, so when a violent mob took aim—repeatedly trying to bash their way into the store and even shooting bullets into its windows in an effort to gain entry—they faced a new level of resistance. Unable to break down the defense, the would-be looters eventually moved on.
The incident is illustrative, highlighting a new, more dangerous threat environment that retailers now operate in, as well as advances in countermeasures that provide stores with a layer of security capable of thwarting even heavy direct assaults. Retailers have always contended with protests and celebrations-gone-wild, but they seem to have entered a new era of risk from social unrest, ideological and political protests turning violent, and associated criminal opportunism. “More robust retrofit security measures are necessary to meet the new threat,” said Jeff Franson, president of IMPACT Security, LLC, supplier of DefenseLite, BulletShield™, and other glazing solutions. “The traditional solution set is insufficient for the extreme type of exposure they have from looting and rioting.”
Window security film has been around for decades and has provided retailers with “nice, entry-level security against traditional smash-and-grab,” Franson explained. But today’s attacks are different, he says. Rather than a brick or some other found object thrown at a store’s window, criminals today come armed with sledgehammers or might plow a vehicle into a storefront.
While the latest gadgets in motion detection, video, and other security technologies are useful for an alert to a breach and to analyze it after the fact, buildings rely on physical protection to withstand smash-and-grab attacks. And, in the face of high-tech security solutions, retail organizations must expect that many thieves will simply attack stores head on, and count on a quick entry and getaway rather than trying to commit their theft undetected.
The force of attacks has grown, and so has the scope of victims, notes Franson. From high-end electronic stores to dollar discount stores and everything in between, just about any store is a potential target of today’s smash-and-grab criminals. “Over the last 12 months we’ve seen an expansion in the type of retailer attacked and the ferocity and duration of attacks has grown exponentially,” he said. Additionally, with police alarm response times having slowed over the years, criminals have more time than ever to pound away at a building’s envelope.
Franson says forward-looking loss prevention professionals have come to realize that old solutions were built for the old threat, but that more robust protection is needed today. His company is seeing interest grow in its patented DefenseLite shield, which is available from authorized dealers trained and certified to install it. Important to retailers, it offers better-than-metal-grill protection without altering a storefront’s appearance. Merchandise displays and any original storefront graphics remain clearly visible. “We’re starting to see greater interest among landlords, too, because they know they need to be inviting to the regular customer and can’t block up the storefront,” said Franson. “You want to add protection, but have it blend in seamlessly.”
DefenseLite anchors onto existing window, door and, curtainwall glazing frames, and a retrofit of a typical storefront with 20 glazed openings can be completed in a day, maybe two. There are no moving parts, no permits to pull, and no need to shut down stores to install. It enhances energy efficiency and provides greater sound control. And because the existing glass and framing are not removed, costs are controlled, coming in at a price comparable to a mid- to high-end grill or gate. “You want to make sure to invest in an engineered system as opposed to standard acrylic,” advised Franson. “And be sure that the system is vented to allow for air flow to prevent any moisture build up.”
Damage and looting of retail properties associated with civil unrest is nothing new, and smash-and-grab robberies are as old as retail, but it does seem that we’ve entered a new era—one that requires a change in how retailers assess risks from protests and social movements and what they require to protect themselves from today’s heavier assaults. A comprehensive plan and approach to security that includes personnel, alarms, exterior lighting, and cameras, along with physical security, can help retail operations meet today’s threats. “A more robust building exterior is an important part of a layered approach to security that retailers need,” Franson noted.