Tales From The Alarm Industry, Part Seven

Image by tonodiaz on Freepik

Stories from my time spent working for an alarm company.

This Time: Two robberies.

Both these robberies were similar in nature in that the method of trying to get round the alarm system was almost the same.

The first robbery happened on a Friday night / Saturday morning and was told to us all in the café on Monday morning. Mad Mick had been on duty on Saturday and was out on a call in the morning when his phone rang. It was the control room, “the police want you to go immediately to a knitwear factory,” they gave Mick the site name, address and the police contact name and phone number.” “Tell them bollocks,” was Mick’s less than helpful answer. “I’m on a call at the moment and have other things to do.” Mick said that in less than five minutes his phone was going again. This time it was the police, the control room had given them his number. “We need you to come to site immediately” the policeman said. “Why.” “We will tell you that when you get here.” “I’m on a call now and have another one to do after that before I can come to your site.” The policeman replied telling Mick that if he didn’t come to site now, a car would be sent to collect him and if he resisted he would be arrested. Mick said that reluctantly he had no choice. He wanted to tell them to f*ck off but thought the better of it. He decided to go but would give them as little assistance as possible. When he arrived, there were two police cars, a forensics van and two unmarked cars outside. He had checked with the control room to see if there had been a break in, the reply was negative. He approached the building not knowing why he had been called. There was a policeman standing beside the door, Mick went to walk past him into the building, an arm went out to bar his access. “You can’t go in there.” “Good, then I’ll get back to what I was doing then, just you tell your mate who phoned me that you wouldn’t let me in.” Mick when he is in that sort of mood can be as awkward and surly as anyone I’ve ever known. “Are you the alarm engineer?” “You just watched me park up in my company van with the logo on the side, course I’m the alarm engineer.” “OK you can go in, just don’t touch anything.” Once inside, Mick could see police milling about. “Are you the alarm engineer?” “Yes” sighed Mick. “Good, can you check the alarm panel and tell us what happened from last night until this morning.” “Nope.” “Why not.” “Your mate outside said I wasn’t to touch anything.” Mick said he just stood there waiting for that to sink in. “You can touch the alarm panel, It’s already been dusted.” When an alarm panel is in “day” mode the engineer’s code will allow him to check through the logs without the need for a customer code. Mick looked through the logs, “The system was set at 18.30 last night, looking at the log book Mick then went on to say that the offices had not been alarmed. He explained that the system was split into two sections, the office and the factory. Either or both parts could be set. Mick dug a little deeper and saw that a fire door had been omitted from when the factory was set. “Can I go into the factory to check the fire door.” “Someone will go with you.” Mick was accompanied into the factory by another policeman. Mick looked round the factory to get his bearings, he had been there before so had a rough idea where things were, he also had the log book with him. Inside the factory, Mick told us that the first thing he noticed was a pile of boxes in front of one of the detectors. He then went to the fire door, “I need to open this door to check something,” “You can’t do that, I will need to check first.” Mick stood there while another policeman was called on the radio. There were now three of them. “Why do you want to open the fire exit.” “Because this door was omitted from the alarm last night and the detector over there is blocked by a load of boxes. If my suspicions are correct then the sockets that the crash bar lock into in the top and bottom of the frame will be blocked up.” There was a long delay while forensics were called to check out the door for fingerprints. Mick asked a policeman who he thought was a bit friendlier than the rest what had happened. There was far too much activity just for a break in. “There was an armed robbery here last night around midnight.” “Nobody robs a knitwear factory with a gun.” “There was a card game going on in the office last night, we have been told that around £20K was stolen from the players.” Mick told us he then understood why there was a large police presence. With the door now having been checked for fingerprints, a detective carefully pushed the crash bar, opening the door. It opened onto the canal towpath. Sure enough. In the frame of the door were the holes where the crash bar slotted into. The bottom one had cigarette ends pushed into the hole to block it. The top one had a piece of cloth wedged into it. On the outside was a pull handle on the door. It was obviously used by the staff to have a cigarette break. He had to wait while the handle on the outside was checked for fingerprints. The door was then closed with the detective on the outside. He pulled on the door a few times and eventually it opened. With access into the factory and the detector blocked off, someone then had access to the offices without setting off the alarm. Whoever omitted that door from the alarm system  when it was set must have been in on the robbery.

His work done Mick was quickly ushered out the door and sent on his way. “The f*ckers didn’t even thank me, b*stards they were, f*k ‘em all.” With the end of the story and our coffees drunk, it was time we all started work.

Weeks later Stevie was sent to the same site to disconnect the alarm system. The factory was empty, there was someone there to meet him and let him in. The business had ceased trading, where there had once been hustle and bustle, there was now only an empty building. Apparently, the business had been struggling and the owner had hatched the robbery plan to get money to set up a new company after this one failed. It didn’t look like his plan had worked. Whether anyone was ever arrested and convicted I never found out. Unfortunately there was just too many break ins to keep track.

The second robbery was one I was called out to on a Sunday afternoon. It affected me in two different ways. It was a warm and sunny day and I had been pottering about in the garden, it had been very quiet with only a false alarm in the morning. The grass had been cut and I was having a cup of tea before starting on the hedges. Mrs 10210 shouted from inside that the pager was going off. I left the half-drunk tea in the kitchen and phoned in to see what was next. “There’s a school in the county that has had a break in and a computer stolen.” I asked when the break in was. “There is nothing on our screen to say the alarm has activated. Just to let you know, the head is on site and when he phoned in, he wasn’t a happy man.” “Great,” was my only comment. With the address and contact details noted down I thought there is no point in trying to phone the school to say when I’d be there. Unless someone was sitting in the office, the phone would just ring. I swapped the “T” shirt I was wearing for a company polo and set off. Thinking about the job, I didn’t see the police speed trap as I drove into Loughborough. Fifty seven in a 50 zone. I tried to blag my way out of it but the copper wasn’t having any of it. £30.00, three points and a bollocking when I get home, this wasn’t going to be my afternoon. Out the other side of Loughborough and onto the school. There was a car and an old white van parked outside. The car I thought would be the head teachers, not sure about the van. The main door was locked, with no indication about where to go, I wandered along the front and down the side towards playing fields. I turned right at the end of the school and walked down the side. There was a separate building behind the school with an open door. In I went, my eyes took a minute to adjust from the brightness outside to the dimness of the building. I was in a corridor, there were no windows only strip lights on the ceiling. I could hear voices and headed in that direction. “Alarm engineer,” I called as pushed open a door. The room was a sports hall, there was a basketball hoop at each end so not too large. Climbing bars were down one wall, there were various bits of gymnastic equipment pushed up against the opposite end. The smell in sports halls are the same wherever you go, it took me back to my own school days. Whilst I was taking all this in, there was a voice saying back to me, “About time to.” “I understand you have had a break in and a computer has been stolen.” The head glared at me, “not one computer, every new computer and printer that we had delivered on Friday has been stolen since your alarm system was set on Friday night. It was all put in the hall as there are no windows for anyone to see in. I want you explain to me how that happened.” He was angry, the other person with him looked like the premises officer and nodded in agreement. “OK, show me the alarm panel please and I will start to investigate, have you informed the police.” “They have been and gone.” I asked if they said not to touch anything.” There was no reply to my question. Once at the alarm panel I found the log book, had a quick look through it to see how extensive the alarm system was, it was a large one split into several areas, one of them being the sports hall. It had four doors, four detectors and its own keypad. This gave it the ability to be set and unset independently from the rest of the system. I looked through the logs on the panel and said that the system had been set on Friday night at 20.30 and unset this morning at 11.30. The premises office said that he had set the system on Friday night once all the cleaners had left and had come in this morning to check everything was OK. “it was when I went into the sports hall I saw that the computers had gone.” “Why didn’t the alarm go off,” the headmaster wanted to know. I had no answer at this point and didn’t reply, I said I wanted to go back over to the hall to check the detectors. I asked for a code to be put in so I could put the panel into “walk test”, I wanted to check that all the detectors were working correctly. I walked round the corridor that ran all the way through the sports hall, there were no windows, there were the entrance doors, two fire exits and a set of double doors that opened onto a sports field. The changing rooms had no windows. The detectors were long range and covered each of the corridors. There was a constant “bing bong” as I walked round opening the doors and activating the detectors. I was followed round, they were watching as I carried out my tests. “What about if you crawl along the floor,” the head wanted me to crawl along the corridors to see if there was a way under the beams. I did as I was asked, I made the two of them stay at the end of the corridor while I got down on all fours and moved along the corridor. There was still the “bing bong” each time the detector picked me up. “How do you explain this, I hold your company responsible for the theft of all this equipment.” Again I said nothing, the situation was beginning to get beyond me. I said I wanted to get my steps from the van and I would be back in a couple of minutes. Back at the van while undoing the locks on my steps, I am on the phone to Billy the chief engineer. I tell him quickly what has happened. “Keep calm, go back in and drill down in the logs to see if anything was omitted when the alarm was set last. Do you have a printer in your van?” I raked through some boxes and found a printer that I could connect to the alarm panel to print out a hard copy of the logs. I replied positively to Billy. “Get a print out and bring it in on Monday, go back as far as it will let you. Inside job I bet.” I returned with my steps and checked out a power supply mounted high up on a wall. I had to do something to justify going for my steps. I returned to the keypad, I was able to check the logs from there. I went into the section Billy had told me about. Sure enough the alarm area with the sports hall had been omitted on Friday night when the alarm was set. I turned to the head and said, “having checked further into the setting on Friday night, the logs show that this area was omitted when it was set.” “That’s rubbish,” this time it was the premises officer, “I set it the way I always set the alarm, it must be a fault on the alarm system.” “I can only say what is in the logs, I can show you if you would like to see.” The head wanted to look, I showed him, but I’m not sure he understood what he was looking at. “I still hold your company responsible.” “I’ve done everything I can to check that the alarm system is working correctly, I would now like to go back to the main panel and set the system, could one of you stay here and when you see that the panel has set, move about in the corridor to set the alarm off.” The premises officer was told to stay behind and the head and I went back to the main building. I rang in and put the system on test. I asked the head to set the alarm, the premises officer in the sports hall would see the panel setting. Once it had set, it was a less than thirty seconds before we heard a click from the panel and alarm appeared on the screen. “Why have the bells not gone off,” I had to explain about bell delay and the police being called, I’m not sure he believed me. I checked with the control room that they had received the signal, with that confirmed, I said I had one final job to do which was to print out the parameters and logs from the panel, “It’s standard practice after a break in. the police may ask us for it later on.” This was bullsh*t, but he said nothing. I went out to the van and returned with the printer. The log can hold 250 events and it took about five minutes to print it all out. By this time the premises officer had returned, he was still saying that he had set the alarm correctly. Once everything was done and I had written up the log book and done the paperwork I said that someone from the office would contact them on Monday, saying goodbye I left. I felt exhausted. I sat in the van and phoned Billy to let him know what had happened. “Keep that printout safe and bring it in first thing on Monday.” The rest of the Sunday was quiet, there wasn’t another call until 06.30, a garage in Burton upon Trent had set off the alarm when they opened up. I rang them and managed to put them off until the normal day engineer was on duty. I rang the control room back and asked them to pass the job back for daytime. It wasn’t worth going back to bed so I sat with a drink until 07.00. In the office at 08.30 Billy took the print out from me, I apologised for having to call him on a Sunday. “Part of the job,” was all he said. Months later he pulled me to one side, “remember the school with the stolen computers,” I nodded, “well I was right, it was the premises officer.” Apparently the police had someone whose job it was to check the small ads in the local papers looking for stolen property. They had spotted computers being sold on a regular basis from the same phone number. The fact that the brand was one that at the time was mostly used in education establishments and the price was too low triggered the police into action. The address turned out to be the premises officer who still had a load of computers piled up in his garage. Having omitted the sports hall from the alarm system on Friday night, he must have spent Saturday shifting the computers from the school back to his garage. When he came in on Sunday, he then raised the alarm with the police and the headmaster.

Next time: New York, Guns and Ammo, fur coats and a missing alarm panel.

© 10210ken 2023