By Michelle Graff
New York--The number of reported incidences of jewelry crime fell again in 2013, continuing a trend that began in the 1990s.

According to the 2013 crime report prepared by the Jewelers’ Security Alliance, the total number of crimes reported decreased from 1,538 in 2012 to 1,414 in 2013, an 8 percent decline.

Dollar losses, however, climbed 11 percent from $60.2 million to $66.5 million due to an increased number of bolder, if not more sophisticated, million- and multi-million dollar incidences.

What follows is National Jeweler’s breakdown of the 2013 statistics compiled by the JSA and what jewelers can learn by looking inside the numbers.

1. The main trend is down. While statistics in certain categories rose year-over-year, JSA President John J. Kennedy said overall, jewelry crime is declining and has been for a number of years. Factors contributing to the drop include an increase in law enforcement efforts to pursue cases of jewelry crime, and the advent of the Internet, which has enabled police and jewelers to share information more easily. Twenty years ago, the JSA would put out about four pictures of jewelry suspects a year. Kennedy said last year, they circulated 142 photos, including digital pictures from stores and snaps taken with cell phone cameras. “I think the Internet has had a big effect on crime enforcement,” he said.

2. The thefts in 2013 were larger. While overall crime was down, dollars losses were up 11 percent. This was due to an increased number of million- and multi-million-dollar robberies and burglaries, including a few high-dollar grab-and-runs and a rise in the number of rooftop burglaries. Kennedy said the crimes in 2013 were, if not more sophisticated, at the least very bold.

3. Leaving out merchandise in showcases overnight is a bad idea. In 2013, the JSA statistics show that the number of rooftop burglaries climbed from 18 in 2012 to 34, an 89 percent increase. Florida had the most rooftop burglaries of any state with 15. Kennedy said many of the rooftop invasions involved the theft of product that remained in showcases after hours. He also noted that the increase in rooftop burglaries contributed to the year-over-year increase in dollar losses because they usually are high-dollar crimes. Perpetrators have more time to spend in the store before they are detected.

4. Just covering the display cases with cloth doesn’t work. Putting merchandise away in a safe is the best course of action. Kennedy noted that the perpetrators involved in rooftop burglaries often have their targets picked out ahead of time, selecting stores with high-value products that they know remains in cases overnight. “People think they can leave out hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of product, and it gets taken,” he said.

5. Showing only one item at a time is still advisable. In 2013, there were 476 grab-and-run crimes, up 26 percent from 378 in 2012. The average loss from these incidences was $8,717. While many grab-and-runs involve the loss of only $3,000 to $5,000 in merchandise, they can be high-dollar crimes. One grab-and-run in New York, for example, resulted in a $100,000 loss. Jewelers are urged to show only one item at a time to reduce the threat of a grab-and-run.

6. The number of “tiger kidnappings” fell. Among the surprises in this year’s statistics was the drop-off in the number of so-called tiger kidnappings, where the perpetrator follows the jeweler to observe his or her patterns and then attacks them off-premises. Kennedy said while it initially appeared that these types of incidences were going to be a big problem for the industry, the trend reversed itself in 2013. Off-premises crimes were down overall, from 68 in 2012 to 40 in 2013, and home invasions of jewelers fell from nine to three. Kennedy said he doesn’t have a great amount of insight into why this happened. “Things vary and sometimes there’s no rational explanation for it,” he said.

7. It was a bad year for jewelry crime in North Carolina. California had the highest number of reported jewelry crimes in 2013 at 164. It is also the state with the most jewelry stores, and normally leads the country in crime because of this. The usual suspects followed: Florida (112 reported crimes in 2013), Texas (108) and New York (99). Kennedy said what was surprising to see was North Carolina coming in fifth with 78 reported crimes. He said this was due to a gang that was operating between Pennsylvania and Georgia and hitting the states in between, including Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. “That area … really got hit hard, much harder than usual,” Kennedy said. Only one state reported no jewelry crimes in 2013 and that was South Dakota.

8. Percentages don’t tell the whole story. Year-over-year, homicides of retailers and traveling salesmen rose from two in 2012 to five in 2013, but Kennedy cautions against seeing it as an overall indication that violence against jewelers is on the rise. A few of the homicides in 2013 involved unusual circumstances. The brutal July slaying of two jewelry store employees in San Francisco allegedly arose from a price dispute while the fatal shooting of a traveling salesman in California was a robbery gone wrong, Kennedy said. The suspect’s gun discharged when he was trying to break the window of the salesman’s car to rob him. 

Get the Daily News >
National Jeweler

Fine Jewelry Industry News

Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.