By Michelle Graff
New York—Jewelers Security Alliance President John J. Kennedy doesn’t like to talk about it, but there are certain categories of jewelry crime that drop during the holidays.

2018 Holiday tips
Smash-and-grab robberies, for example, aren’t as prevalent.

Store owners, generally, have additional security and more help on the floor. Stores and malls are more crowded, making it harder for smash-and-grab robbers to flee.

But crowded stores, long hours and general confusion open the door for increased incidences of other crimes, including jewelry theft—particularly distraction thefts—and credit card fraud.

Below, Kennedy gave National Jeweler four thoughts on ways jewelers can protect themselves this holiday season.

1. When taking a credit card, ask for extra ID.

When accepting a credit card, particularly from a new customer, Kennedy advises asking for a second piece of identification in addition to the customer’s driver’s license.

Examine it carefully and ensure all the information matches up and makes sense. If the person processing the transaction still isn’t sure, then don’t hesitate to ask for a third piece of ID.

Kennedy said jewelers should be particularly vigilant when accepting credit cards for high-end watches, as these seem to be the product of choice, so to speak, for those looking to commit credit card fraud.

2. Follow opening and closing protocols; take out merchandise and put it away under secure conditions.

Many retailers extend their hours during the holiday season, often staying open longer in the evenings to accommodate as many shoppers as possible.

There’s no problem with stores varying their hours around the holiday season, but jewelers should not open when they’re not ready to open or close before it’s time, Kennedy cautions.

If the store is posted to stay open until 10 p.m., then employees shouldn’t be opening showcases and pulling out merchandise at 9:30 to “get it done” and get home.

“Stuff is out, showcases are open … it’s just more vulnerable,” Kennedy said.

He also advises against letting customers in after hours, unless they are known to the store owner and/or its employees.

“If you close at 9 and somebody knocks on the door at 9:15, don’t let them in. If they’re a regular customer, that’s OK, but we see incidences of people trying to get in after hours or before hours to rob the store,” trying to hit jewelers when they’re not fully staffed and merchandise is out of the cases, Kennedy said.

3. Be wary of big groups.

Kennedy said members of the nomadic ethnic group Roma, also known as Gypsies, continue to commit distraction thefts at stores nationwide.

One of the most recent incidences of jewelry theft happened at a store in Aurora, Colorado. Nine people entered the store together and eight of them kept one of the owners occupied while the other crouched down, waddled through an open gate to the back of the store and cleaned out the safe, which also was open.

He said jewelers should be on guard if three or more people enter the store together.

In addition, showcases and safes should always be locked, and product should not be left out on the counter.

4. Educate part-time and seasonal help.

Anyone brought on as an extra hand around the holiday season needs the same security rundown that full-time employees receive.

In addition, jewelers need to make sure they have proper insurance coverage for all the merchandise they have in their stores during the holidays.

Meanwhile, in addition to these tips, National Jeweler also asked Kennedy about a press release the National Retail Federation issued in mid-November stating that losses from organized retail theft reached an all-time high last year.

He said that while in the jewelry industry there are gangs who pull off rooftop burglaries, smash-and-grabs and jewelry thefts by groups like the Roma mentioned above, they are not top-down organizations with one leader. They are more often cells of loosely affiliated people.

“In the general retail industry, it (organized retail theft) is massive. In the jewelry industry, it’s more targeted and particular. I just don’t see it as the same thing.”

He also pointed out that crime in the jewelry industry in general has been on the decline in recent years.

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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.