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August 1999


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 more violent

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.


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