Kim Kardashian robbed in Paris hotel: Could it have been prevented?

Here's what we know about the robbery perpetrated upon Kim Kardashian West in Paris. The reality star was restrained in her hotel room at the Hôtel de Pourtalès and and robbed at gunpoint of jewelry worth an estimated $9 million. In order to access her room, a residence owned by her family, two suspects involved with the theft (and a further three involved with the getaway) first took the hotel’s concierge hostage, forcing him to disclose her location before tying his hands up and making for the jewels.

It's a shocking event that has raised questions as to where Kardashian's security was and why she had so much expensive jewelry on her person, let alone how the robbers could so simply get away with a smash and grab.

We wanted to know how the hotel industry prevents episodes like this from happening and if Kardashian was staying at a more known, branded hotel, perhaps, would this have had the chance of happening at all?

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“We can only control so much of what goes on at [a given] hotel, and if this can happen to a Kardashian it raises some questions,” said Josh Williams, director of risk management for Crescent Hotels & Resorts. “If you are in my position, you get skeptical and cynical because you have to ask the questions.”

It’s the worst kind of publicity for an industry that has built itself on fantasies of escapism. That the Hôtel de Pourtalès, a property chosen by the Kardashian family equally for its boutique luxury and obscurity (its address is tough to find through basic online searches, and little information on it is available to those not willing to make a booking) raises concerns about safety in hotels, but Williams said mistakes were made that could have prevented such an event.

“Why was the concierge by himself? By having better protection for your own staff, guests and their property are also protected,” Williams said. “Bank-style silent alarms, working in groups and having more physical security present at all times, especially when dealing with celebrities or luxury guests, these things could have prevented this.”

There are also unconfirmed reports that the perpetrators were able to approach the concierge in such a manner because they were dressed as police—but they also wore masks and gloves. Williams said that when a guest is a person of interest, hotel staff should always ask for police badge numbers, report numbers and supervisor names to follow up on, but that sort of due diligence won’t protect a worker if they are rushed by multiple people.

Is an obscure boutique hotel the safest option for high-profile guests? In the Kardashian’s situation, they most likely had luxury, not security, on the mind. But according to Williams none of that matters because security isn’t best found with a brand but with practices—or as he put it, “layers,” which sometimes are best found in plain sight.

“With the Ritz-Carlton brand, everything on property is accessed through keys coded based on your reservation and room,” Williams said. “Everyone has access to the gym and pool, but you need a key just to get to the suite level, let alone rooms. They design their key around that, starting at the elevator, and that is one layer.”

Regardless of this, a boutique with a hidden address seems like a safe place. But just because your property is seemingly off the grid won't deter paparazzi, zealous fans or motivated thieves. More precautions could have been taken. Williams argues against having a master key at the front desk, and he also suggests educating guests on use of deadbolts in order to keep potential assailants at bay. But with the situation so fresh, and with two perpetrators involved in the robbery, there is little doubt that a lock would hold them back.

Williams also said the hotel should have been working with the celebrity’s personal security team. Having housed everyone from famous sports teams to infamous characters on trial for committing terrorist acts, Williams said step one is communication and preparation. 

“It always depends on who your guest is to determine the type of unwanted visitors you get at your property, but coordination is second to none,” he said. “People want to know where the back entrances and exits are, all the access points. High-profile folk don’t want attention of that kind, they want to get in and out of the hotel with ease.”

For now the industry can expect some bad publicity, but it has to remember that its guests expect protection at all costs. “I just hope that people look at this event and ask the question, ‘What can we do for you from a security perspective?’”

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