The story could’ve been ripped from the headlines in urban London, Paris, or New York—not Gstaad, nestled peacefully in the Swiss Alps. Yet last week, an armed robbery occurred in broad daylight on the busiest street in Gstaad, just 100 metres from a police station.
On Friday, May 1 at 4 pm, a man who spoke broken German entered the jewellery shop at Promenade 55. A second man followed, and they proceeded to hold the two female employees at gunpoint. The assailants stole jewellery and watches worth over several hundred thousand francs and were last seen heading toward Bahnhofplatz.
The Bern Cantonal Police released a description of the men and has asked the public to contact them immediately if they have any additional information.
The first man is described as 30 to 35 years old, 180 cm tall, with a thin build and a distinctive harelip. He was wearing thick glasses with a wide black frame, a light grey Basque-style cap and dark leather gloves. Under a dark blue raincoat, he wore a white collared shirt, blue jeans and dark sneakers with a white sole, and carried a backpack.
The second man appears 25-30 years old, with a thin build, dark eyes, and square jaw. He wore a dark hooded jacket, grey raincoat, blue jeans, and brown leather shoes. He carried a red and black backpack and spoke broken German with an Eastern European accent.
Safe in the Saanenland?
The Saanenland maintains a relatively low crime rate compared to other areas in the canton. Police statistics from 2012 show only 40 criminal incidents per 1000 inhabitants in the region, versus 176 per 1000 in the city of Bern. Yet local businesses remain at risk, along with the many chalets that sit empty much of the year, as most home or business robberies occur whilst the victims are away.
Local security expert James Otigbah argues that further measures and procedures should be put into place to prevent such incidents.
“Even though crimes of this scale are not a common occurrence in the Saanenland, it is a worrying threat both to residents and employees of luxury boutiques," says Otigbah, Owner, Excel Security Solutions, which provides many local shops and chalets with security services of varying degrees. “Local businesses, residents, and the municipality should join to find a permanent solution for improving the security situation in the region.”