By Michelle Graff
New York—The Jewelers’ Security Alliance’s annual crime report is out, and it paints a picture of an industry that is safer than it has been in decades.

Though the number of overall crimes was up slightly, dollar losses dropped dramatically and violence against jewelers hit a low not seen in decades.

2019 JSA LOGOHowever, Jewelers’ Security Alliance President John J. Kennedy told National Jeweler in an interview Thursday that retailers and suppliers should not be lulled into complacency by the decline in crime.

Safer, after all, is a relative term when applied to the jewelry industry; there still were nearly 1,500 burglaries, robberies and thefts last year.

“It’s still a very dangerous business, and it will always be a dangerous business,” he said. “You have to follow all the proper security protocol or else you’re going to be a victim at some point.”

Below are eight takeaways from JSA’s annual crime report for 2018. The report charts statistics on crimes that occurred between Jan. 1, 2018 and Dec. 31, 2018 and were reported to JSA.

1. Dollar losses dropped 26 percent year-over-year.

Dollar losses fell for the third consecutive year in 2018, and dropped significantly compared with the prior year.

In 2016, losses totaled $75.8 million. That number slipped to $73.9 million in 2017 before plummeting to $53.4 million last year.

Kennedy said the reason for the drop in dollar losses is that JSA, through support from the industry, has been able to hire and pay a full-time crime analyst. This, combined with other upgrades, allows the organization to give more information to the FBI and local law enforcement agencies. And that, in turn, helps them zero in on large, organized theft gangs.

“You’re not going to stop someone who’s going to go in and grab a diamond ring, but the big-dollar gangs, if you get them, you stop innumerable future crimes, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Information sharing online, whether by the trade press or on social media, also helps, he said.

2. The number of incidences involving violence (a gun, another weapon, etc.) also declined.

The percentage of robberies in which the perpetrators pulled a gun was 36 percent last year, down from 50 percent in 2017 and 62 percent in 2016.

Robberies involving other forms of violence stood at 18 percent, down from 28 percent and 32 percent in 2017 and 2016, respectively.

Kennedy called the trend “very significant” and said it is due in part to stiffer penalties for crimes involving guns.

It also means fewer jewelers and traveling salespeople getting killed on the job.

Last year, only one member of the jewelry industry lost his life during a robbery, 32-year-old Jason Cullen, who was killed at his family’s Highland, California store in January 2018. The last time there was only a single person killed in the industry was 1980.

The number of jewelers shot but not fatally also fell, from five to three.

Two robbers were killed by jewelers in the commission of a crime in 2018, up from one in 2017.

3. But the total number of crimes rose.

The total number of crimes was up 3 percent year-over-year, from 1,394 to 1,441.

Theft, defined as the taking of property without force or fear as in a grab-and-run or a diamond switch, accounted for 68 percent of all jewelry crime in 2018.

There were 984 thefts reported to JSA, compared with 214 burglaries, 209 robberies and 34 off-premises crimes. (A burglary is when the perpetrators enter the premises after hours with intent to commit a crime while robberies involve the taking of property by force or fear. Off-premises crimes include attacks on traveling salespeople, designers doing trunk shows and companies exhibiting at jewelry trade shows.)

4. The most common crime was …

The grab-and-run theft. There were 641 last year—up from 556 in 2017—and they accounted for 65 percent of all thefts and 44 percent of all jewelry crimes.

The average grab-and-run loss was $8,142, and one incident in Texas resulted in a loss of $106,300.

5. The number of smash-and-grab robberies nearly doubled.

Incidences in which the perpetrators broke through showcases or windows to steal jewelry rose from 71 in 2017 to 129 in 2018, an 82 percent increase. Arrests of smash-and-grab criminals also were up, from 28 to 65.

For all robberies, not just smash-and-grabs, the greatest number occurred between the hours of 7 and 9 p.m.

Kennedy said this is mainly due to perpetrators hitting mall chain stores late in the day, hoping the mall and the store are not crowded, the staff is tired and, in the fall and winter months, it’s dark outside.

He noted that closing time has always been a “very dangerous time” for jewelers.

6. Off-premises crimes continued to decline.

In recent years, it’s a trend that holds true every year. Changing distribution channels mean fewer traveling jewelry salespeople on the road and a decline in the number of off-premises crimes.

There were 34 cases reported to JSA in 2018, down from 39 in 2017, with parking lots standing as the most common place of occurrence for off-premises attacks, followed by highways/streets and residences.

Dollar losses dropped by 60 percent to $7.2 million.

The 34 cases consisted of 22 robberies and 12 thefts, including the notable theft of a 20-carat diamond from a Las Vegas jewelry trade show in June 2018, a loss totaling $580,000.

Seven out of the 12 thefts involved merchandise stolen from unattended vehicles, which is not generally covered by insurance, JSA noted.

7. A high percentage of crime is concentrated in a handful of states.

Kennedy said while temporary “hot spots” for crime pop up from time to time, most crimes generally happen where the most jewelry stores are, and those are where the people are.

California and Texas, which are the two most populous states in the U.S., topped the lists for most jewelry store robberies and most burglaries.

The most active states for off-premises losses were California (35 percent), Florida (9 percent), Illinois (9 percent) and New York (9 percent). These four states accounted for 62 percent of all off-premises crimes.

8. The JSA received no reports of jewelry crimes from three U.S. states in 2018.

They were: Idaho, Vermont and Wyoming, which are three of the least populated states.

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