What executive protection pros can learn from the Kim Kardashian robbery

October 7, 2016 - By Christian West & Brian Jantzen

The world was shocked Monday morning by the news that Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint in a Parisian apartment. The American celebrity and the French capital had again made headlines – this time, regrettably, for all the wrong reasons. Although shaken by the incident, Kardashian was fortunately not harmed. On behalf of everyone who follows this cultural icon, we’d like to express our sympathy to Kardashian and her family.

In this blog, we attempt to draw a few lessons from this tragic event from the perspective of executive protection professionals. We’ll to try to understand the nature of what happened in a brief “after action review” so we can learn from it – and hopefully make it more difficult for something like this to happen again.

First off, let’s make one thing clear: This blog is inspired by news stories we’ve read in the media like everyone else – not on facts that have been 100% verified.

Second, let’s make another thing even clearer: We’re not here to raise questions about any security agent or cast stones against colleagues in the industry. We know what it’s like to be in charge of protection, and we know that things can go south for any number of reasons.

Executive protection is not a one-person job, and it doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Like so many other things worth doing, protection is a team effort that can be enhanced by technology – and always faces financial constraints.

“Like so many other things worth doing, protection is a team effort that can be enhanced by technology – and always faces financial constraints.”

Protection specialists come in all shapes and sizes. We all have different types of training and backgrounds. One thing that we do have in common is that we all have to make do with what we’ve got, and do the best possible job with the available resources.

Rumors are still swirling after the spectacular heist early Monday morning in which reality star Kim Kardashian was robbed inside the Parisian apartment she was staying in during her visit to the Paris Fashion Week.

Jewels worth millions are missing. Various media have reported that Kardashian had been tailed by suspicious people posing as paparazzi or police prior to the robbery. Fingers are being pointed at everyone from Parisian police to lax security and Eastern European gangs. Talk of an “inside job” has captured imaginations.

We’re going to let all of these speculations rest, and focus instead on a few takeaways from the situation – and what we in the industry can do to minimize the probability of similar attacks.

What we – and many others – know about the victim and her situation

Kim Kardashian is a high-profile celebrity that is in near-constant public scrutiny, has tens of millions of followers on social media, and is often in the news. As such, it’s no wonder that the perpetrators – along with millions of others – knew some important facts about Kardashian:

  • She often carried valuable jewelry
  • She was in Paris for Fashion Week

But the robbers knew more than that. Through either effective surveillance or a tip off, neither of which would be extremely difficult to come by, they could also figure out that:

  • Kardashian was staying at a private residence
  • She was protected by one unarmed security agent (who also keeps an eye on others in her entourage)
  • She was likely to have even more jewelry than normal, since it was Fashion Week

Given this background, and the assumption that the perpetrators knew that Kardashian was in the apartment and that her security agent was with others in her group at a night club, five armed robbers overpowering one concierge and gaining access to Kardashian’s apartment is not an impossible task.

In fact, the heist would have to be considered a low-risk, high-reward job for the criminals.

So what could have been different…

There’s nothing like hindsight, and it’s easy to play armchair quarterback when it wasn’t your principal, your butt, and your budget constraints that were on the line of scrimmage. Still, a few tactical considerations are worth thinking about.

Given the principal’s apparent risks and vulnerabilities while in Paris, some measures could have been taken to make her a harder target.

…and what can other high-profile travelers do in order not to be the next victim?

  1. When possible, maintain a low profile.
  2. Check into hotels and other accommodations under a pseudonym.
  3. Utilize hotels and residences that have visible security personnel and systems.
  4. Do your social media posts and check-ins AFTER you leave a place where vulnerability might be higher than normal – instead of broadcasting your current location.
  5. Avoid time and place predictability.
  6. Based on risks inherent to high-profile activities and locations, and situations that preclude time and place predictability, be sure to staff properly for effective threat deterrence. This could include “residential” coverage (for private homes or hotels) as well as a halls & walls team. Consider this also when you have items of high value – not necessarily expensive jewellery – but things that many of our clients consider as “work tools” – laptops, cell phones, etc.
  7. Provide a way to communicate an emergency to your security staff, for example some kind of duress button/system.
  8. Utilize portable, temporary alarm and surveillance systems that are monitored by someone that can initiate local emergency response.
  9. Ensure your EP resources have training to identify hostile surveillance.

We hope that Kim Kardashian recovers from what was surely a traumatic experience and that she and her family remain safe, no matter where their travels take them.

We also hope that executive protection professionals everywhere will continue to learn from these unfortunate events, so that we can all work together to make things harder for the bad guys.

Christian West

Founder and CEO

Christian has been active in the executive protection industry since the late 1980s, when he worked for Danish musicians who relocated to Hollywood. Upon returning to Denmark, he founded his own EP company, which he quickly grew into Scandinavia’s largest, before it was acquired by Securitas.

Christian founded AS Solution in 2003, and again in 2009 followed his international clients to the US, where he is now based. An active member of ASIS and a leader in the corporate executive protection industry, Christian has personally planned and led high-profile engagements in over 76 countries for a wide variety of corporate and high net worth individual clients, including the international roadshow for the biggest IPO in history.

Brian Jantzen

Executive Vice President

After leaving the US Marine Corps as a captain in the early 1990s, Brian has pioneered corporate executive protection services internationally for Fortune 500 companies, high net worth families and NGOs.

Brian has provided protection at the highest levels of corporate and philanthropic environments in over 35 countries. With his demonstrated ability to align security operations with both the client’s organizational goals and personal preferences, Brian uses his strong relationship building, collaboration and project and vendor management expertise to create security solutions that deliver program efficiencies and customer satisfaction. Brian graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in Sociology and is the subject matter expert chair for the ASIS Executive Protection Council.