By Michelle Graff
michelle.graff@nationaljeweler.com
New York—The Jewelers’ Security Alliance held its annual event online Wednesday, handing out its usual awards and providing a snapshot of jewelry crime in what was an unusual year.

JSA President John J. Kennedy said 2019 was a “very bad year for crime,” with the association’s annual report for the year showing an 87 percent jump in dollar losses due to professional gangs.

The year 2020 “was an outlier,” with the usual types of crimes perpetrated against jewelry stores and salespeople down considerably because of the pandemic.

Stores were closed for periods of time, there was less foot traffic in malls, employees were more careful, and fencing and travel opportunities for criminals were limited.

But 400 stores were looted in June, Kennedy said. Looting is a “very atypical” crime and resulted in a lot of property damage, though little theft of jewelry.

There also were a number of high-dollar-loss safe burglaries—made easier in part because of all the stores that were currently vacant or closed, giving criminals the ability to enter via adjacent businesses—as well as grab-and-run thefts, which are always a problem for jewelers.

JSA’s virtual event also included the presentation of the 22nd annual James B. White Award to Law Enforcement and the 16th annual Industry Service Award.

White Award recipients FBI Special Agent Ivan Romo and Los Angeles Police Department Detective Dennis Bopp specialize in investigating burglary gangs from Chile that target jewelers and have worked to compile a list of about 300 other law enforcement agents who do the same so they can share information.

The Industry Service Award went to Joe Barnard, director of stores for Bernie Robbins Jewelers.

Barnard started at Bernie Robbins 30 years ago, originally joining the company for what was supposed to be just a summer job.

Today, he handles security for Bernie Robbins and a network of other stores and is “someone that JSA turns to for information and advice about retail security practices,” Kennedy said.

Wednesday’s virtual event started off as the physical event does every year—with a moment of silence for members of the jewelry industry killed on the job the previous year.

In 2020, the industry lost three: Connecticut jeweler Mark Vuono, retired police Capt. David Dorn, and Los Angeles jeweler Eshagh Natanzadeh

Kennedy also called for a moment of silence for all those who have died as a result of the event that has “overshadowed our industry … and brought sadness to so many”—COVID-19.

More than 350,000 people have died of the virus in the United States.

Members of the jewelry industry who have succumbed to the disease include M.K. Diamonds’ Julio Ramirez, Texas jeweler Randy Flatau, jewelry designer Yupadee Kobkul Boonsiri, industry veteran Bob Siragusa, Nebraska jeweler Frank Kumor, colored gemstone wholesaler James Breski, and InStore ad salesman Fran Zimniuch.

RELATED CONTENT: In Memoriam: The People We Said Goodbye to in 2020

The annual JSA luncheon is one of a handful of events that normally take place in New York City in January but has been moved online or postponed. 

The annual Jewelers Vigilance Committee luncheon is scheduled to take place online Friday while the Gem Awards have been moved to July.





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