Crime

What JSA’s Annual Report Tells Us About Jewelry Crime in 2021

CrimeJun 30, 2022

What JSA’s Annual Report Tells Us About Jewelry Crime in 2021

Plus, JSA President John Kennedy talks about the trajectory of industry crime over the last 20 years.

New York—Last year was a “mixed picture” for jewelry crime in the United States, with the number of crimes increasing but dollars losses dropping when compared with pre-pandemic levels, the Jewelers’ Security Alliance’s annual report shows.

Released earlier this week, the report tracks crimes via specific case information reported to or obtained by JSA but excludes crimes the organization is unable to obtain a statistically valid sample for, such as internal theft, cyber-crime, and credit card fraud.

In 2021, the total number of crimes committed against U.S. jewelry firms was 1,687, down less than 2 percent from 1,718 in 2020.

Total dollar losses reached $70.1 million, also a decline from 2020, when dollar losses totaled $83.2 million.

However, 2020 was an anomaly for jewelry crime, with stores closed for months at a time followed by widespread civil unrest that caused the number of burglaries to spike that summer while not significantly impacting dollar losses. 

In an interview Wednesday, JSA President John Kennedy said comparing 2021 to 2019, pre-pandemic, paints a more accurate picture of the current trajectory of jewelry crime.

In 2021, there were more crimes than in 2019—1,687 vs. 1,438—but fewer dollar losses. Dollar losses decreased by 31 percent from $101 million in 2019 to $70.1 million in 2021.

Dollar losses were unusually high in 2019 due to a surge in the number of professional gangs cutting power to jewelry stores and then cleaning out the safes. 

In 2021, there were more crimes, but they were the types of incidences where dollars losses tend to be less significant. 

Grab-and-run thefts, for example, spiked last year, totaling 842, up from 616 in 2019 and 581 in 2020.

The average loss from a grab-and-run in 2021 was $7,953 compared with $693,000 for a safe attack, which numbered only 17 in 2021, JSA’s report states. 

Kennedy said the increase in grab-and-runs is due to the fact that people could, in many circumstances, conceal their faces with masks with few questions in 2021. 

It’s also a relatively easy crime to commit, appealing to people left in dire straits following the pandemic, he said. 

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Only one member of the jewelry industry was killed while on the job in 2021, down from three in 2020 (two jewelers and one store guard) and three in 2019 (one customer and two bystanders).

Jamie Browning Iverson, 67, was shot and killed during an April 2021 armed robbery at the store she owned and operated with her husband in Indianola, Mississippi.

Two brothers were arrested in her murder. 

JSA’s 2021 crime report also shows the continuation of a trend that’s held for two decades—overall, the number of crimes perpetrated against members of the jewelry industry and the associated dollar losses continue to drop.

The report notes that over the last 20 years (2002-2022), dollar losses from U.S. jewelry crimes have totaled $2.2 billion, with the biggest years for losses largely contained to the early aughts. 

In 2002, losses totaled almost $190 million and peaked the following year at $195.5 million. This year’s dollar loss total, $70 million, is less than half that. (Historical losses are stated in inflation-adjusted dollars.) 

“A big driver of that, a huge driver of that, is the off-premises losses,” Kennedy said.  

“When I started here [in 1992], you would get one [off-premises incident] a day,” he said, noting that dollar losses from off-premises incidences, which include attacks against traveling salespeople and retailers at home as well as thefts at trade shows, used to total as much as all other crimes combined. 

In 2021, there were only 34 incidences of off-premises crimes totaling $13.1 million in losses, down from $16.1 million in 2020 and $14.5 million in 2019. 

Of the 34 off-premises crimes, 25 were robberies and nine were thefts. Seven of the nine thefts involved jewelry being stolen from unattended vehicles, a loss that is not generally covered by insurance, JSA noted. 

The change in the way jewelry is distributed and sold over the years is the main driver behind the drop in off-premises crimes. 

Companies of all sizes used to have multiple traveling salespeople on the road at all times. Now, there are only a handful of companies with employees going from store to store, and a lot of them aren’t even carrying product, Kennedy said.
So far in 2022, JSA has seen an increase in the violence and frequency of jewelry crimes across the board, with Kennedy noting upsurges in smash-and-grab robberies and assaults. 

The increase is due to in part to the lifting of travel restrictions, which has allowed international gangs to return. 

“The opportunity now presents itself, so now they are here,” he said. “Just like there is pent-up demand to buy jewelry, there is pent-up demand to steal jewelry.”

To read JSA’s 2021 Annual Crime Report in its entirety, visit JewelersSecurity.org

Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

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