By Michelle Graff
New York—The number of stores having their power lines cut by potential burglars continues to climb, the Jewelers’ Security Alliance reported last week.

After issuing a “red alert” on power-line cutting Thursday, JSA President John J. Kennedy told National Jeweler Monday that six more stores had their power interrupted over the weekend, all in Florida.

The outages were determined not to be accidental (i.e., due to lightning or a widespread blackout) and five happened in one town, which Kennedy said is not uncommon. Perpetrators often target multiple stores in the same area, then sit and wait to see which store is the most vulnerable.

None of the stores were robbed, he said, because the jewelers were aware that it was an issue—JSA has been sending out alerts about power-line cutting since the spring—and called police.

Prior to the past weekend’s power outages in Florida, JSA reported three other recent, similar incidences of note.

On June 23, suspects cut the power lines to a jewelry store in Yorba Linda, California, that was closed because it was Sunday. The owner’s family came by to check on the store and noticed the cameras and alarm weren’t working so they called the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff’s deputies staked out the store and caught two of the four suspects when they broke in and started smashing cases with a crowbar. The other two fled in a vehicle, police said.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department identified the suspects as 22-year-old Almendra Yeliann Marchant Torres and Andres Ismitt Hidalgo Duarte, 29. As of Monday, both remained in custody and were ineligible for bail.

A similar incident took place around the same time in the Kansas City area.

JSA said on June 22, a Saturday, suspects cut the power to five stores around the same time and targeted one, a store in Leawood, Kansas.

At that store, they pried open the rear door and unsuccessfully tried to break into the safe, which Kennedy said is common in many, though not all, of these incidences. The perpetrators come through the doors, roof or walls and try to get into the store’s safe, even if they have to spend a few hours inside to do so.

In the Leawood store, JSA said the suspects stole a “large quantity” of jewelry from the showcases as well as a back-up drive for the computer before fleeing. No arrests have been made.

And, about a month ago, three suspects who allegedly cut the power to two different jewelry stores and robbed one in Scottsdale, Arizona, were arrested in their motel room with stolen jewelry.

The Scottsdale Police Department identified the individuals as 28-year-old Abraham Pablo Herrera Montecino, 24-year-old Juan Francisco Antonio Ramirez Cruz and Christian Alejandro Pierola Sepulveda, 36. Information on their custody status was not immediately available.

59 and Counting
The Jewelers’ Security Alliance first issued an alert about the epidemic of power-line cutting in May. At that time, the organization said it was aware of more than 30 cases in seven states and Canada.

Since then, that number has risen to 59, and those are just the cases JSA was able to confirm, Kennedy said. He added that there is no number from last year to compare to it because it wasn’t a crime the JSA was even tracking.

Kennedy said while power-line cutting has always existed as an m.o. in burglaries, it was seldom used but has been “rampant” this year. He said in all his time with JSA, he’s never seen so many cases in one year.

The suspects are believed to be Chilean and are operating in multiple cells nationwide. It is unknown at this time if the cells are affiliated, even if just loosely so.

The Jewelers Security Alliance has a list of recommendations for jewelers on how they can prevent a burglary if the power to their stores is cut.

No. 1 among them, according to Kennedy: At this point, a retailer should assume if there is a power interruption, then a burglary is in progress and she or he should go to the store with the police in tow.

“Don’t let the alarm company or the cops tell you it’s weather or it’s [something else],” he said.

Other tips include making sure the call list with the alarm company includes the owner and enough employees so that someone will be available to respond even on weekends and holiday nights, and alerting the police to the situation, including the fact that there might be burglars near the store who are watching their response.

“We’re predicting more cuts over the Fourth [of July weekend],” Kennedy advised, “so be careful.”

A full list of recommendations on preventing a burglary in the event of a power interruption can be found in this story.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected post-publication to clarify what was taken from the Leawood, Kansas jewelry store. It was the back-up drive for the computer, not the hard drive as originally reported. 

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