Security expert warns exhibitors
By ALISON WISEMAN
POOR security at a jewellery exhibition could mean a repeat of the thefts which plagued a recent trade fair, a security expert warned.
The five-day Hong Kong Jewellery and Watch Fair, which opened at the Convention and Exhibition Centre yesterday , was described as an ''easy target'' for thieves by the chairman of Asian Security and Investigation Services, Francis Knight.
Loose security was blamed when $1 million of jewellery was stolen from the Ninth International Jewellery Show at the same venue this month.
Mr Knight said: ''It is far too easy for someone to get in and out of the show unchecked, while security at many of the stands is also poor.
''I wouldn't be surprised if there was a repeat of the thefts which took place at the last show.'' Despite a registration system, Mr Knight and a South China Morning Post reporter were able to walk unchallenged into the exhibition halls without identification badges.
Inside the fair, Mr Knight demonstrated how easy it was to carry out a theft by grabbing pearls, valued at about $50,000, from an open display case and then replacing them without anyone noticing.
''It is made too easy for the chance thief because there is no video surveillance of entry and exit. Many of the stands are manned by only one person who can be easily distracted,'' Mr Knight added.
But exhibitor Thomas Farber said he was not worried about the level of security.
''If security is too strict customers may be put off coming to the show. It is important to strike a balance between good security and ease of access,'' Mr Farber said.
Exhibition organisers, Headway Trade Fairs, said it was confident it would not have the same problems as the last fair.
Headway's managing director, Denny Yung said: ''We have been organising this fair 11 [times] and we have never had any problems with theft.
''I believe that four security guards at every entrance is sufficient although security can never be 100 per cent.'' The organisers are expecting 30,000 people to visit the 1,200 stands during the show.
Graham Lander, staff officer at the Crime Prevention Bureau's headquarters, said: ''Sneak theft was a problem at the last show but it is difficult to say what constitutes sufficient security.
''The onus is very much on individual exhibitors to keep an eye on their own stand, while organisers could help by providing more information on the risks and prevention of sneak thefts.'' Headway said it was broadcasting a security reminder to exhibitors over the show's public address system every hour. There were no reports of theft at the end of the first day.
Organisers of the ill-fated show, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, said: ''We are reviewing the security arrangements at the show but it is too early to say what measures we will take next year.''