Kim Kardashian Robbery Proves the Value of Celebrity Security, Experts Say
"Security is like car insurance -- you don't need it until you need it."
When news broke late Sunday night (Oct. 2) that Kim Kardashian West had been robbed at gunpoint in her Paris hotel room, with thieves binding and gagging her before making off with millions of dollars worth of jewelry, many people jumped to one question: where was security?
One of the most famous, exposed celebrities in the world, Kardashian has long kept an open channel of communication between herself and her fans through social media; along with Keeping Up with the Kardashians, her fame is largely reliant on her regular Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat updates. With that level of engagement comes a commensurate requirement for security.
In this case, an almost perfect storm of scenarios resulted in Kardashian being alone, in a boutique and supposedly secret hotel, without protection, with a large amount of expensive jewelry. According to reports, the model and entrepreneur sent her personal bodyguard, Pascal Duvier, to a club to protect sisters Kourtney Kardashian and Kendall Jenner, still participating in Paris Fashion Week, while Kim stayed in for the night.
The case is still under investigation by Parisian authorities, but has raised several questions about personal security for celebrities as they travel, a particular concern for a music community full of artists who now make a large slice of their income by hitting the road on tour.
"Security is like car insurance -- you don't need it until you need it," says Anthony "AD" Davis, founder of AD Entertainment Services, who declined to give specifics but has reportedly worked with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Steven Tyler and the Osbournes. "A lot of people get frustrated and say, 'Every month I'm paying for this auto insurance and I've never had an accident.' And then, boom, you have an accident and you're glad that you have that coverage."
The cost of this type of security is not, however, similar to an insurance payment. Davis estimates that an average monthly rate for a top personal bodyguard runs approximately $16,000 per month; to protect a family like the Kardashians, a three-guard detail would run just under $50,000 a month, or slightly less than $600,000 per year, depending on how often that detail is required.
"A lot of celebrities will minimize their coverage as a bottom line cost until something like this occurs," he says. "[But] it's not just a bunch of big guys who follow you around and open doors. You've gotta have guys that have the instincts to identify suspicious individuals, identify suspicious packages, that have had training and experience."
For many security professionals, that coverage begins with planning in advance, knowing your route and trusting those around you.
"First of all, I want to know who knows that we’re going to be there -- is it that Kim was just flying there under the radar, or did the world know she was coming?" says James “JROC” Simpson, a longtime security guard who has worked with Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J and Tyga in the past, of the hypothetical situation. "When I get to a place, I already know the exit routes and we always know the way we’re going to exit. I have everything planned before I get there."
Things get more complicated when the two biggest variables in Kardashian's case are added to the equation.
First, the amount of valuables she had with her. "Whether it's jewelry, or a valuable guitar, or a stash of drugs, it doesn't really matter -- whatever is valuable to you requires protection," says Steve Adelman, a lawyer who serves as a member of the Event Safety Alliance, before referencing this upcoming weekend's Desert Trip Music Festival. "I am pretty confident that right now, in black, unmarked Suburbans there is an enormous convoy making its way to Indio, Calif., because between the Rolling Stones and Neil Young and Bob Dylan and Roger Waters, they've all got personal security as well as security for their gear."
The second issue is that Kardashian was in a foreign country. "I'm licensed to carry a firearm," Davis says. "But when you're an American and you're out of the country, you lose that ability, legally. So when I have a high-profile client that potentially has jewelry threats, I hire an additional layer of security locally."
Of course, with social media's rise to ubiquity, celebrities of all levels of fame are more connected to the public than ever before, opening up potential security risks that some may not even realize. "The largest issue is that celebrities often times don’t consider themselves a potential target and push back on true body guarding or fixed security," says Robert Smith, founder and CEO of Nightclub Security Consultants. "Is it for walking through a crowd? To get to a rear club door? Or is it to prevent idiots from attacking their butt? Celebs of all kinds are great targets for pervs, creditors and criminals."
Celebrities travel often, occasionally with valuable materials, and cases such as Kardashian's are, thankfully, few and far between. But sometimes there are smaller, simple steps to take to avoid a situation like what occurred with Drake earlier this year, when a man walked onto his tour bus and left with a briefcase containing $400,000 worth of jewelry.
"I would have it in the most nondescript bag or container as possible,” Davis says. "I would put it in a McDonald's bag.”
Additional reporting by Ray Waddell and Adelle Platon.