Danger at the Door
Manufacturers' sales representatives are targeted more often, but
whether the victim is a sales rep or a retailer, jewelry crimes are becoming
Crime against jewelers remains near the top of every industry conversation
list. While the number of incidents against retailers appears to be heading
down, occurrences against sales representatives have risen sharply, and
assaults against both are becoming more violent, says John Kennedy, president
of Jewelers' Security Alliance, New York City.
"We had 130 attacks against sales representatives in the first four
months of the year, well above the norm," Kennedy says. "Some
are very big and violent." He cited a case in Nashville, TN, in which
an armed guard was killed while he and an armed partner moved goods for
a special event. Companies that conduct trunk and remount shows are big
targets advertising the event tips off thieves, and often the robbery
occurs at or near the store, says Kennedy.
JSA advocates using guards to accompany sales representatives, but even
that doesn't always work well anymore. "Guards often are in plain clothes,
and because the (thieves) don't know they are armed guards, they may not
be much of a deterrent," says Kennedy, who recommends using off-duty
police officers in uniform.
Detective Mike Woodings heads a Los Angeles Police Department Task Force
that's conducting an all-out war against organized jewelry crime. "It
won't be long before they figure out how to neutralize the guards,"
he says. "If they want the jewelry, they'll find a way to get it."
Woodings agrees violence has escalated to a dangerous level. "About
90% of the time there's either violence or the threat of violence during
a robbery," he says. "They're not just cutting tires anymore;
they're ramming the car."
Most Los Angeles-area crimes now emanate from the downtown jewelry district.
"It used to be they'd stake out a jewelry store and wait," says
Woodings. "Now they follow sales representatives from the mart."
Home Is No Haven
Kennedy says about 20% of all the incidents reported to JSA are home-related
jewelers being followed home by their assailants. In three Florida
incidents, thieves broke into the homes of jewelry store owners, held them
at gunpoint and demanded store keys and safe combinations, then tied them
up and left to rob the stores. In New York three robbers posed as delivery
men at the suburban home of a jeweler, pulled a handgun and robbed the safe.
Jewelers aren't the only people at risk. Robbers followed a Los Angeles
graphic designer who works with jewelers as he left the downtown mart for
home, believing he was a jeweler. They pointed a machine gun at him and
held a knife at his throat as they grabbed his briefcase filled with drawings,
photos and papers.
To minimize risk of at-home incidents, JSA recommends jewelers not keep
merchandise in their homes, install an alarm system and outside lighting
with a motion detector, and refuse to open the door to unexpected visitors
or delivery people. Also, get an unlisted phone number, keep a cellular
phone nearby at all times, vary your route to work and instruct family members,
babysitters and neighbors to stay alert and follow security procedures when
necessary. And don't widely publicize an event where extra inventory is
indicated, such as a going-out-of-business sale.
by Jack Heeger
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.