New York--The Jewelers’ Security Alliance has issued another bulletin warning retailers of small bands of distraction thieves who are hitting jewelry stores around the country, a problem JSA President John J. Kennedy said is “rampant” in the industry right now.

A continuation of the trend first noted by the JSA in October, the three latest incidences involved jewelry stores in Ohio, Maryland and Texas.

The most recent distraction theft relayed by the JSA happened Feb. 23 in St. Clairsville, Ohio, which is located near Wheeling, West Virginia.
20170228 women suspectsThese two women wanted in the theft of a gold chain from an Ohio jewelry store were described as being in their 30s and “heavy set.” The two white females allegedly involved approached the assistant manager of the store and asked to see several pieces of merchandise.

While viewing the pieces, they were able to distract the associate and take one gold chain.

On Feb. 21 in Hanover, Maryland, the JSA said that the man pictured below at the far right distracted store employees while the other two men stole a “high-end” watch.

Anyone with information about this particular crime is asked to call Corporal William Seekford of the Anne Arundel (Maryland) Police Department at 410-222-2400.

20170228 male suspects
Prior to that, a husband-and-wife team are suspected in the theft of a high-end gold watch from a jewelry store in Dallas on Nov. 9.

They allegedly asked to see several watches and while there were three or four on the counter, the man put his hand over one of them, distracted the employee and slipped the watch into his jacket pocket.

His wife added to the distraction by trying on a watch and holding her arm up in the air at the same time.

20170228 man wife suspectsThe suspects, who are pictured at right, reportedly left the scene in a black minivan. Anyone with information in this case is asked to call Corporal C.D. Mayfield of the Allen (Texas) Police Department at 214-509-4255.

According to the JSA, other tactics used in this string of distraction thefts including reaching into showcases, using wrapping paper or boxes as a method of distraction or concealment, or covering up items with a large purse while counting out a cash payment.

While the uptick in distraction thefts is recent, there is nothing new about certain types of jewelry crime surging, Kennedy said.

In 2014, the industry witnessed what JSA described as an “explosion” in the number of smash-and-grab robberies, crimes where the perpetrators were entering jewelry stores with hammers and smashing up display cases.

But the numbers fell in 2015 after police arrested about 70 people in Detroit, Oakland, California, and Texas who were members of two fairly large, separate gangs perpetrating the attacks.

The recent spate of distraction thefts is thought to be the work of numerous small groups of individuals, Kennedy said.

The JSA advises that store owners and their employees show only one item at a time and keep showcases locked except when they are removing or returning merchandise.

In addition, the JSA provided a list of characteristics common among these recent distractions thefts.

They include: suspects ask to see a large number of items--typically heavy gold chains and watches-- that they have placed or spread out on the showcase; they enter in groups of two, three, four or more, often with babies in their arms or children in strollers to project a sense of innocence; they find a reason to suddenly leave at the point of sale but promise to return; and they speak in a foreign language that was described by one sales associate as “an unknown European language.”

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