When reviewing crime data committed against jewelry stores there’s always a mixed bag of positive and negative news. Although rooftop and sidewall burglaries, as well as smash-and-grab robberies, are still leading security threats for jewelry store owners and their staff, the good news comes with a 77% increase of jewelry criminals captured in the first half of 2014 compared to the same period last year, according to recent data from the Jewelers’ Security Alliance (JSA).
The increase of jewelry crime-related arrests, going from 211 in 2013 to 374 this year, is attributed in part to increased interest from law enforcement officials - including the FBI. JSA has established an extensive network of law enforcement officials that grows each year. The JSA is also broadcasting weekly e-mail alerts on jewelry crimes that go out to thousands of retail jewelers across the country. Jewelers share this information with their staff. And, as stores have changed over to more compact, more efficient digital survey and security systems, there is more visual information for law enforcement officials to review.
Other welcome data from JSA’s annual report includes a drop in the total number of reported jewelry crimes. In 2012, 1,538 crimes were reported while in 2013 it was 1,414 for an 8.1% decrease in reported crimes against jewelers. Even with fewer jewelry crimes, however, the actual dollar losses increased by 10.5% from $60.2 million in 2012 to $66.5 million last year.
“This increase was due to several high-value burglaries and smash-and-grabs,” says John Kennedy, president of JSA. “Last year there were a number of million dollar and multi-million dollar crimes committed against jewelers.”
Smash-and-grabs of high-value display cases in jewelry stores contribute to their share of this dollar loss increase. A notable and recent example was a brazen smash-and-grab at the Tourneau watch store located in Manhattan’s high-end The Westchester mall in mid-August. The number of smash-and-grabs increased from 52 in 2012 to 62 last year with numbers showing a steady increase in 2014. Industry experts state high gold prices and a stagnant economy are chief motivating factors for criminals that commit such crimes.
Burglaries from rooftops and sidewalls are the other big-ticket losses for jewelry stores. Entering jewelry stores through rooftops got the attention of industry security experts in 2010 when these crimes were part of a noticeable trend. Reasons for the increase in rooftop burglaries are many. Burglars and their crews have established systematic ways of testing the response time of local police by tripping false alarms. Burglars can easily establish an average response time to determine how many minutes are available to disable primary and secondary layers of security.
When police respond to a jewelry store alarm, typically only ground floor doors and windows are checked. “The roof, sidewalls and all possible points of entry must be examined, including through neighboring premises,” says John.
And, much of the equipment needed to cut into or penetrate TL-15 and TL-30 rated safes can be purchased at most home improvement outlets such as Home Depot and Lowe’s. With rooftop burglaries and smash-and-grabs, the two primary crimes committed against retail jewelry stores, the Jewelers’ Security Alliance has some suggestions for being better prepared to prevent or reduce the losses of these criminal acts.
“Jewelers should confirm with their alarm company that the store alarm set-up will provide protection from entry from the roof, sidewalls and all possible points of entry, and that they have line security,” says Kennedy. If a store owner isn’t sure if their store is susceptible to rooftop or sidewall burglaries, the JSA advises having a security audit done to determine the vulnerability of a store.
Also, consider if the positioning of a store’s safe on an exterior wall or a wall of a neighboring office or store would allow burglars to break through a wall and penetrate the safe without even entering the jeweler’s premises.
With regards to pulling jewelry at night, the JSA recommends: “Put everything away, otherwise you increase your risk,” says Kennedy.
With smash-and-grabs being the second-most committed jewelry crime, the JSA suggests retailers install laminated glass showcases. “This type of glass makes it harder to break through display case glass with sledgehammers,” states Kennedy. “It is a costly security measure for an entire store. For those on a tight budget, laminate high-value cases first and complete the project piecemeal.”
Jewelry stores aren’t just targets these days, so are the jewelers. To help jewelry store owners protect themselves, their families and their homes, JSA suggests keeping a watchful eye on those that might be casing you, your home and the store. Look for cars parked in front of or near your home or business and be sure to not be followed. Vary your commute routes to and from work and always avoid getting into predictable routines.
Your home’s location can also be a factor. High traffic streets that are well illuminated with street lamps, close proximity neighbors, proper deadbolt locks and airtight security systems are good first measures.
Much like your store, keep an incident report book of suspicious activity or events at your home. Train family members to comply with criminals in the event of a home break in. Be sure to have a word or phrase system in place so a family member can covertly communicate a security problem in progress by phone. Keep your personal jewelry to a minimum and store it in a small safe.
Establish relationships with trusted neighbors. From maids to electricians, be sure to screen contractors entering your home. Don’t have a published phone number. Keep your cell phone handy on a nightstand along with your car key fob. Pressing the remote car alarm for your vehicle could prevent a crime. Some of these security tips can also be given to retail jewelry customers that have purchased high-value jewelry and watches from your store. Another useful tip is to not store valuables in a home’s master bedroom.
And, with the holiday season coming up, JSA offers some store security essentials starting with keeping an eye out for people talking on cell phones in or near your store. Always be alert if pictures are being taken with mobile devices inside and outside the store. If someone enters the store wearing sunglasses, invite them to remove them to better view the jewelry. Be mindful of identity-concealing clothing such as hoodies. Be suspicious of clothing that doesn’t match the weather, such as long overcoats on hot days.
Be sure to have enough staff on the showroom floor when large numbers of people enter the store. Criminals see opportunity in crowded jewelry stores with engaged sales associates. Be mindful of questions about the store’s hours of operation, wanting to see the “most expensive” jewelry first, gesturing hand signals and leaving large bags, coats or sweaters on top of the counter while looking at jewelry.