New York--‘Tis the season for distraction thefts and mental mistakes.

For many jewelers, business will pick up throughout the month of December. Their stores will (hopefully) be more crowded, and many will extend hours or, even, open extra days in order to accommodate customers and finish special orders.

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Below, Jewelers Security Alliance President John J. Kennedy provides five pieces of advice for preventing in-store crimes during the holiday season.

A similar theme runs through each tip: Don’t get sloppy with security protocols around the holidays, when hours can run long and sales associates get tired.

1. Watch for Distractions.
What Kennedy is referring to specifically are the gangs of Roma, also known as Gypsies, who have been perpetrating sneak and distraction thefts in jewelry stores across the country.

“They are rampant,” he said, “absolutely rampant.”

Their M.O. is this: They enter the store in groups, often groups of women and sometimes with children. They try to confuse the sales associate by asking to see a lot of different items, with the hopes that they can grab an item that’s left on the counter or reach into an unlocked showcase.

They also have been known to switch product.

The JSA has issued numerous warnings about Roma in recent months, including this bulletin from fall 2016 and this story from June about a group of six individuals wanted for a distraction theft in California.

2. Always Lock Up.
Kennedy’s second tip is a continuation of his first, but it applies whether a sales associate is waiting on a large group with the potential for distraction theft or just one individual.

He said even when stores get busy, employees need to make sure they lock the showcase after they take out an item to make a presentation, and then lock it up after they return the merchandise.

“If you leave open showcases in a busy store, someone is going to reach in there and take goods,” he said.

3. Educate the Team.
Many store owners bring on part-time employees during the holiday season, but not all of them take the time to bring them up to speed on how the store works.

Kennedy said store owners need to spend an hour reviewing security procedures with seasonal employees--including the store’s protocol in taking credit cards--and update them on any industry crime trends, like the distraction theft gangs mentioned above.

Otherwise, they’ll be the weakest link for store security.

4. Take Time to Review.
In addition to educating new employees, Kennedy said the holiday season is an opportune time to call a meeting and sit down with senior staff to go over security protocols, particularly the procedures of opening and closing.

After a long day, some sales associates might start putting items away before all the customers have left the store in an effort to get it done and leave a little bit earlier. But merchandise should not be put away until all customers have left the store and the door is locked.

Kennedy also noted that the holiday season is a good time to check the stores cameras and alarms to make sure they are working properly.

5. Put Everything Away.
Speaking of closing up at night, Kennedy said: Do not leave any merchandise in the showcase overnight, including low-end product, and don’t cover showcases with sheets or blankets.

Put everything away in the vault. If there’s no room in the vault, put the items in a drawer.

“The holidays are dangerous, just like the whole rest of the year is dangerous, but there are some special circumstances because it’s a busy season for everybody,” he said.

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