Large scale robberies used to be regulated to hard commodities, high-end collectibles or straight up cash. As we ducked into 2013, the stripping of the Paris Apple Store has proven this wrong. In a full scale casing, bandits came away with an estimated total of $1.32 million in merchandise. This was not simply through designer items, but a mass of retail devices such as notebook computers and iPhones. The event mimicked a traditional ban robbery, with the criminals heading in as the store was closing and intimidated the staff with threats of violence. Paris police were busy wrangling in large crowds as 2012 came to a close on New Year’s Eve, and the thieves eventually made away with one of the largest retail snatches in history.
This is by no means the first time an Apple Store has been stormed by violence. Ever since their popularity skyrocketed over a diversity of platforms, the stores have been a target because of their hyper concentration of such high-demand devices with such portable sizes. In 2009, a New Jersey store was robbed in just over thirty seconds. 23 Macbook Pros and 14 iPod Touches and iPhones were taken, a value in the tens of thousands of dollars. In a recent Westlake, Ohio Apple Store robbery over $30,000 in Macbook Pros were taken in even less time than the New Jersey robbery. One of the most memorable plots on an Apple Store involved the thieves driving through the doors of the mall location with their BMW and snatching as many iPhones as they could get their hands on. Unfortunately, this was a week before the iPhone 5 was released so their pool wasn’t exactly hot on the market. One of the largest robberies took over $75,000 in Apple products from an Albany, New York store in late 2011.
What separates the recent Paris job from this history is that this was a calculated effort that came away with the kind of reward that is usually associated with art museum or bank casings. The four or five people that stormed the Apple Store intended not just to do a quick grab of whatever they could sell or pawn, but instead clean out the store entirely. The perception of a simple retail location as a possible high money score is anything but traditional in organized crime, but with the massive popularity of Apple devices mixed with the small size for their relative price leads them to be densely wealth containing objects. Similar to stealing diamonds or gold, stealing a lot of iPhones will end up with more ammassed wealth than other consumer items. This makes the store locations that have a strong hold of these a target, especially when the time it takes to clear out the majority of the merchandise is next to nothing. This should also be matched with the ease of transport and sale for these items, which have a lot more possibilities than rare commodities like collectible art pieces.
Though most people were fine after the incident, it was frightening to those who work in similar retail locations. The custodian was sent to the hospital with some minor injuries and the on-site security guard was completely overpowered. These all come as a result of the willingness for the perpetrators to commit violence, which is the sign that this is much more than organized shoplifting or a casual robbery. The store had been closed for a full three hours already, which means that it must have been staked out for quite some time to minimize customer inferference and to ensure that there were still employees present. After taking the store they took forty minutes to clear it out of all expensive items, which really separates it from the “drive through” robberies we have seen before. This was not, however, a complete steal of all available products, though it looks as though the store would not have enough merchandise to simply resume business. With just a few hours left in the day, they stormed in fully-armed and took full advantage of the light police precense in the consumer areas.
There are currently no suspects associated with the robbery and many estimates state that this may be the first of many similar operations in western Europe. The likelihood is that it will extend even beyond here, seeing organized operations to intersept shipments in Asia.