By Michelle Graff
New York--Six months into 2013, statistics from the Jewelers Security Alliance (JSA) show that the number of crimes against the jewelry industry has dropped, though the number of homicides is up and kidnappings and home invasions remain a threat.

According to data released by the JSA last week, there were 740 crimes against the industry totaling $35.3 million in losses between Jan. 1 and June 30.  (The JSA reports dollar losses at cost, not retail.)

That is down 12 percent from the same period last year when crimes numbered 844. In dollar terms, total losses are down 14 percent from $41.1 million.

Arrests are down from 273 to 211, a 23 percent drop.

JSA President John J. Kennedy called the decline in the number of crimes significant and attributed it to sharing of information among law enforcement and more well-informed jewelers.

“I don’t know how low you can go. It keeps getting lower and I don’t know where it’s going to stop,” he said.

He acknowledges that crime statistics won’t keep declining indefinitely. Eventually, the trend will reverse itself and that could start as soon as the second half of the year. “It’s impossible to predict,” he said.

Off-premises crimes against the industry, including kidnappings, home invasions and the robbery of traveling salesmen, is the category that has experienced the greatest half-year decline, from 37 incidents in the first six months of 2012 to 26 this year, a 30 percent decline.

Twenty-six is an all-time low for the category, which totaled 92 at the year’s halfway point just five years ago and used to account for as many dollar losses as all other industry crimes combined. Kennedy said the drop is due to more arrests of South American gangs, tougher immigration policies and a significant drop in the number of traveling salesmen.

“There are still fewer salesmen on the road. There’s fewer and fewer all the time,” he said.

While the number of off-premises crimes dropped, dollar losses increased from $5.5 million to $6.9 million, with two high-dollar incidences raising the overall average.

Kennedy warns that home invasions and kidnappings remain a threat to jewelers, with the JSA recording six such crimes since the beginning of the year.

Incidences of theft dropped 13 percent, from 461 to 402. Dollar losses in this category declined from $9 million to $5 million.

Robberies, defined as theft that involves the use or force or fear, declined 11 percent, from 159 to 142, with dollar losses down from $19.8 million to $17.4 million. Burglaries, defined as entering a premises, usually at night, to steal something, fell from 187 to 170, a 9 percent drop. Dollar losses in this category fell from $6.8 million to $6.0 million.

While crime in the four categories tracked by JSA has declined year-over-year, two jewelers were murdered between Jan. 1 and June 30 following a year in which the JSA recorded zero homicides of jewelers.

A traveling jewelry salesman from Hong Kong was murdered in West Covina, Calif. in January, and Villa Rica, Ga. retailer Mitch Mobley was killed in his store in late June.

Three more jewelers have become homicide victims since June 30, bringing the to-date total for 2013 to five.

A clerk at National Jewelry Buyers in Albuquerque, N.M. was shot in a robbery in July while two employees of a San Francisco jewelry store, Victoga Inc., were killed by a customer who claimed he was overcharged, news reports state.

“That’s a lot. There are years we don’t have five,” Kennedy said, but adds there is not necessarily a specific reason homicide statistics have increased.

Taking a longer-range view of the statistics, Kennedy said he has noticed a shift in the geographical center of crime over the last few years from the West Coast to East Coast states, specifically Pennsylvania, Maryland and North Carolina.

“We’ve seen a big concentration in that area, particularly in Pennsylvania,” he said.

The shift is due in part to gangs in certain areas of the country being put out of commission while gangs pop up elsewhere, he said. 

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