When celebrities travel, there are a number of serious security protocols put in place to prevent crazed fans, stalkers, or people looking to do harm from getting too close. So, news of Kim Kardashian West being robbed in Paris over the weekend was particularly shocking. According to reports, Kardashian West was “gagged” and bound at her hands and feet while the assailants stole more than $10 million worth of jewellery.
We spoke to security expert Devin Tullis, owner and CEO of Tullis Worldwide Protection, a Virginia-based firm specialising in protecting diplomats and CEOs, about how high-profile clients remain safe on the road — and how things could have gone wrong.
Rooms Are Chosen Very Carefully
Celebrities don’t just check into a hotel and cross their fingers they get a nice room with a view.
“You’re making sure you’re above ground level, a couple of floors up,” Tullis explains. “You look at fire escapes, who is below, who has access to the floor, whether the floor itself is card-key activated, or where you need to be on that floor to access it.”
Some reports indicate that Kardashian West was staying in an apartment in Hotel de Pourtales owned by her husband Kanye West. The super secret location reportedly provides apartments to rent short-term or own outright, according to The Hollywood Reporter. In many high-end hotels with residential quarters, there is a separate entrance for owners. Tullis says that should have resulted in an even safer environment.
“When you’re talking about a residence, they normally will have a security guard posted at the entrance,” he says. “There will be one way in, maybe two ways in, compared to the hotel side which has multiple entrances through the pool and things like that. It’s more secure in the access control but it’s not 100 percent secure.”
The Staff Abides by Confidentiality Agreements
“They all have very, very strict confidentiality agreements and it is the expectation of all these fine hotels that they don’t give out client information,” Tullis says. “But you’re dealing with hundreds of employees at a hotel and people talk. I was at an event with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie with very limited security, and it was a matter of minutes before everyone and their brother knew they were there. Nobody saw them coming in but it was all over the news immediately.”
The Hollywood Reporter writes that the Hotel de Pourtales, also known as the “No Address Hotel,” is a favourite of celebrities like Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio and Prince, and that the residences are said to employ as many as 20 highly vetted employees.
A Personal Bodyguard is Sitting in the Hall All Night
This is a very expensive service — and, as Tullis says, “Everyone has a budget, no matter how wealthy you are.” Obviously there’s no way to be sure that this was a service Kardashian West paid for, but for clients willing to fork over the expense, a “halls and walls guy,” as Tullis refers to, is a guard tasked with sitting outside the client’s room, who can provide additional peace of mind.
“A ‘halls and walls guy’ literally just stands in front of the suite door for multiple reasons — not just for security but also to make sure housekeeping isn’t coming in at 7:30 in the morning when your clients been out until 3 o’clock in the morning,” he says. “You want to make sure no fans come up and try to knock on their door. If there’s a food delivery, you want to make sure to ask, ‘Hey guys, did you actually order this?’ Celebrities will often get flowers and gifts brought up, that person is there to be that last-ditch effort between the world and the client.”
Short of paying for around-the-clock surveillance, a celebrity can pay for their bodyguard to stay in the room next door or can opt for a more affordable hotel nearby.
There are conflicting reports about the whereabouts of Kardashian West’s bodyguard during the crime: According to People, he was out with her sisters Kendall Jenner and Kourtney Kardashian, while The Sun reports that he was handcuffed by the gunmen. Kardashian West recently posted a photo of herself with bodyguard Pascal Duvier on Twitter.
This guy is always in my shot! pic.twitter.com/7LC6ewaYPO
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) October 2, 2016
There’s a sweep of the suite.
Officials believe that the crime was committed by a “highly organised” group that had done extensive planning, according to Us Weekly. When it comes to making sure rooms are free of cameras or other surveillance, security detail will often do a survey of the room before the celebrity arrives.
“A majority of the time, we’ll do a sweep of the room, looking for anything obvious, for cameras,” Tullis says. “Thorough bug-sweeping protection is an additional amenity — it’s very expensive.”
A safe for valuables.
It’s no secret that Kardashian West is usually dripping in million-dollar jewels. Many fine hotels and residences have a safe in the room for valuables, but for someone as high-profile and active on social media as Kardashian West, all of those expensive accoutrements could be a target for thieves.
“All this Chanel clothing and things that highlight how wealthy they are is a huge target for people trying to do harm,” says Tullis. Still, he says, in spite of social-media posts indicating where a star is and what they’re wearing, that exposure can be unavoidable. “It’s already all over TMZ, it’s already all over the news. But this is what these people do, attention is their business. It’s a catch-22.”