National Jeweler Network

Market Developments

What jewelers can learn from crimes in California

By David Sexton

August 25, 2014


David Sexton, CPCU, is the vice president of loss prevention consulting at Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company. He can be reached at 800-558-6411 or dsexton@jminsure.com.

Crime is an ever-present threat to jewelers throughout the country, but California jewelers are having a particularly active year.

In jewelry crime driven by organized crews, it’s not uncommon to see a recurrence of similar losses in a single geographic area or even to see specific types of crime scenarios move from one geographic area of to another as the perpetrators attempt to outpace law enforcement authorities. Jewelers especially in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco have witnessed an increase in criminal activity this year.

Despite these periodic localized spikes in criminal activity, it’s important for jewelers nationwide to always consider the types of crimes being committed and how vulnerable their own operations might be to a similar criminal attack. By being proactive, you will be better prepared to avoid being targeted and keep your business more safe and secure.

A disturbing trend
Jewelers Mutual continues to work closely with the Jewelers’ Security Alliance to track reported crimes and educate the industry on how jewelers effectively can engage in their own protection. Some recent criminal activity against jewelers reported in California include:

--A team of armed robbers forced the associates of a southern California mall jewelry store to open showcases and hand over approximately 40 Rolex watches. Another store location of the same jeweler in the same area had been robbed in a similar manner less than a year ago.

--Just weeks ago, two jewelry salespeople traveling together were driving in the Los Angeles area when robbers using two cars boxed them in on a highway exit ramp. The robbers smashed the windows of the victim’s vehicle, reached in, released the trunk latch and made off with the salespeople’s merchandise.

--Early in July, four robbers armed with knives violently robbed two diamond salespeople who had conducted business earlier that day in downtown Los Angeles. When the salespeople drove to dinner, they were accosted by criminals who stole the merchandise they were carrying, their passports and cash. The robbers did not get any jewelry merchandise, because the salespeople wisely had left their lines in a safe.

-- In June, criminals broke into a vehicle belonging to a jewelry salesperson who worked in downtown Los Angeles. The break-in occurred in the parking lot of a store at which the salesperson had stopped while on her way to the airport.

-- In May, a rooftop burglary occurred in a southern California jewelry store. Burglars entered through the roof, disabled the surveillance and burglar alarm systems, and successfully penetrated one safe. As they were attacking a second safe, they inadvertently started a fire that damaged the building.

-- Also in May, a thief successfully “switched” a 3-carat diamond with a cubic zirconia at a jewelry store in the Los Angeles area.

-- In April, burglars conducted a rooftop burglary at a jewelry store in the Los Angeles area. The criminals broke into an adjacent un-alarmed store and cut through the common wall shared with the jewelry store and penetrated the back of the jeweler’s safe undetected. They then successfully removed all of the safe’s contents.

-- Another rooftop burglary took place within 30 miles of the aforementioned crime. Thieves broke in through the roof, disabled the burglar alarm system and then successfully penetrated the safe.

-- Also in April, a jewelry salesperson was robbed on Interstate 5 between San Diego and Los Angeles. Robbers used three vehicles to box the salesperson in and proceeded to rob him at gunpoint.

-- In March, a rooftop burglary occurred in the San Francisco area. The thieves cut through the roof of an adjacent unprotected premises, cut through the common wall shared with the jewelry store, and penetrated the back of the jeweler’s safe, which had been situated against the same adjoining wall.

This rise in rooftop burglaries and crimes against traveling jewelry salespeople has led investigators to suspect the hand of well-organized criminal gangs and/or crews in many of these and other incidents.

While the crimes themselves differ, all of these cases indicate a degree of surveillance was conducted prior to the attacks. The perpetrators collected the requisite intelligence about their targets in advance to help them successfully evaluate their victim’s habits and vulnerabilities.

What can you do?
Always assume that criminals are observing you and your store. Because you are in the jewelry industry, you are indeed a potential target regardless of where your operation may be located.

Encourage your staff to maintain and share a suspicious incident log of all unusual behavior, individuals or vehicles your team observes. If you suspect your store is being cased, contact the local authorities.

For more information to help protect your business, visit Jewelers Mutual’s Safety and Security page at JewelersMutual.com.