National Jeweler Network

Market Developments

Arrests for jewelry crimes hit record level

By Michelle Graff

August 11, 2014

New York--Crimes against jewelers dropped in the first half of the year while the number of criminals being apprehended nearly doubled, Jewelers’ Security Alliance statistics for Jan. 1 to June 30 show. 

According to the figures, which were released last week by the JSA, the total number of crimes against the jewelry industry fell from 740 in the first six months of 2013 to 641 this year, a 13 percent drop. 

JSA President John J. Kennedy said the reason for the drop in crime is the increase in another statistic the JSA tracks: arrests of jewelry criminals, particularly the prolific gangs that work in packs. 

“That has a dramatic, cumulative effect on reducing crime,” he said. “You take out a bunch of people, you have less crime.”

Arrests rose from 211 in the first six months of 2013 to 374 in the first six months of 2014, a 77 percent increase.

 Kennedy said the JSA has been tracking arrest statistics for about 15 years and can’t remember another six-month period with this many arrests.  In fact, he says, the highest total number of arrests JSA has recorded for an entire year has been about 540 or 550; if arrests continue at the same pace, they will top 700 this year. 

What is aiding authorities in being able to track down those who are wanted is increased communication from the JSA and local jewelry associations made possible by the Internet, which allows all parties involved to share information and high-quality photos quickly. 

Two recent examples include the mid-July arrest of two alleged members of a ring that was using stolen identities to apply for in-store credit cards and then make big purchases. Police apprehended the suspects after local jewelers associations in Texas and North Carolina circulated the alerts the JSA distributed about the gang, which is believed to be responsible for more than $1 million in losses at multiple stores. 

A similar sharing of alerts led to the arrest of three people wanted in a string of jewelry thefts across multiple states. 

“It’s the sharing of information that does it,” Kennedy says. 

In addition to the drop in crime, total dollar losses also declined in the period, slipping 4 percent from $35.3 million to $34 million. 

Kennedy says dollar losses declined less dramatically than overall crime because the gangs still operating are targeting higher-end stores. “Their selection process has improved,” he says. “They know what product is highly desirable in the marketplace…and gravitate toward those stores.” 

Looking at the categories of crimes individually, robberies, burglaries and thefts all fell in the first six months of the year, JSA statistics show.

The number of robberies, which has been on a steady decline since 2011, dropped from 142 last year to 131 through the first six months of 2014. Burglaries fell from 170 to 127 and thefts were down from 402 to 355. 

One jeweler was killed in the first half of the year--29-year-old Muhammad H. Baig was shot during a robbery at Victoria Jewelers in Richmond, Va.--compared with two in the same period last year. 

The only category in which there was an increase was off-premise crimes which were up slightly, from 26 to 28. 

Notwithstanding the very small increase in the first six months of this year, off-premise crimes have been on a steady decline since 2009, the JSA’s six-year comparison of statistics for Jan. 1 to June 30 shows. This is due to the decreasing number of traveling jewelry salesmen on the road, Kennedy says. 

In 2011 and 2012 there was a spike in one type of off-premise crime: “tiger” kidnappings, incidences in which criminals conduct surveillance of jewelers and/or their employees, kidnap them when they are away from the store and force them to return and empty the safes.

Kennedy said, though, that reports of tiger kidnappings have dissipated in recent months due to the fact that many of those responsible have been arrested and now are in jail.