Kim Kardashian case puts celebrity security in spotlight

In the world of the rich and famous, security is a no-brainer on the list of priorities.

So when Kim Kardashian is confronted in her Paris hotel room by armed robbers who pretend to be police who take more than $10 million in jewelry, it’s a big deal.

But how could something this serious happen to a high-profile celebrity?

A celebrity's social media presence complicates security in today's high-tech world, and Kardashian shares constantly with her online followers.

When it comes to tweets or check-ins, "That is a major problem. If you're tweeting where you're going, or where you are, bad guys are tracking where you're at. It’s easy to do," says Kent Moyer, CEO and founder of the World Protection Group. "Celebrities have to do it, I get it. But it can be a recipe for disaster, letting people know your movements."

Social media instruction to clients has become "standard on protection packages," says Jason Porter, vice president of the central region for Pinkerton, a global provider of corporate risk management services, including protective services. "We take a look at what's being said, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. You want to know what’s being said, when it’s being said. Is someone planning on pulling a prank or doing a protest or making a threat?” His company is constantly monitoring social media to see who is tweeting about seeing a celebrity at a certain location, or if a high-profile client is posting about their whereabouts.

Mason Burroughs, who has worked security for Paris Hilton, says she's been burglarized repeatedly. “They knew we  were out of the country, they knew how long we’d be gone, all from social media. They knew her schedule better than I did.”

It's all about striking a balance, Porter says. “Part of the celebrity persona is to put that public face out there, but also being able to do it in a way that doesn’t compromise their safety or security.”

The nature of the Kardashian incident is unusual and raises other questions. “When was the last time a celebrity was actually attacked?” asks Shawn Engbrecht, director of operations at Cass Global Security, which protects celebrity and corporate clients. He’s not talking about pranksters on the red carpet.

“You have a series of protocols” that a celebrity's security detail should follow before a dangerous situation develops, says Engbrecht. “So she’s staying at wherever she is in Paris and somebody knocks on the door. ... No. 1, ‘ID, please.’ … ‘Oh, so you’re the police. OK, police, why are you here?' … ‘One moment, please, while I call the station to confirm that you are in fact who you are.’ ”

It's unclear where Kardashian's security was during the robbery. “If security was dismissed for the night, why were they dismissed? Was there a proper risk assessment put in place to ensure there was proper security for her without her own (people) being around?” Porter asks.

“She’s lucky to be alive, if she was held at gunpoint," says Moyer. "I hope she takes her security more seriously going forward."

Aside from the apparent lapse in protocol, “there was an assumption that because they dressed like the police, they were the police,” Engbrecht says.

But Engbrecht also offered another angle to consider: Because the suspects made the effort of dressing like police officers, they had “advance warning of where an individual’s going to be and when they’re going to be there and what they’re going to be there with — in this particular case, a whole lot of jewelry.”

The other possibility, he says: The information was leaked by the hotel or her entourage.

Jewelry requires extra precaution. "If you don’t have a bodyguard with that jewelry, that’s the chances you are going to take,” Burroughs says.

Another thing to consider is whether displaying all the bling is a great idea, Moyer says. "Wearing that jewelry is a big attraction to a criminal. Even if you have all the insurance in the world for it, it doesn’t cover your life. Is it worth attracting that kind of attention?"


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