Crimes against sales representatives are down overall, though a recent rash of cases had the industry concerned
Though crimes against traveling jewelry salespeople decreased last year, four attacks in 10 days in September raised some eyebrows. But the spree was an anomaly, says John Kennedy, president of the Jewelers Security Alliance, New York City.
After several years of a very slow rise in criminal incidents against sales representatives, a huge spike occurred in 1999, with total losses increasing by 44% over the previous year. However, Kennedy says crimes in 2000 occurred at a pace well below the 1998 level.
He attributes the decline to increased efforts by law enforcement agencies and a heightened awareness among sales representatives, many of whom have altered their procedures and are hiring armed escorts.
This was no help to the people robbed in Septembers spree. A salesman driving on a San Francisco freeway Sept. 13 was rear-ended, and as he pulled to the shoulder of the road, two gunmen emerged from the other car, pointed a gun at him and took $250,000 in loose diamonds.
Thieves struck twice on Sept. 21. In Connecticut, a sales representative traveling with his son lost more than $1 million in jewelry when they stopped at a restaurant. Five robbers were involved. And in Atlanta, a Hong Kong jewelry salesman and his wife were run off the road by three men in two cars. The robbers grabbed cases containing a reported $2 million, and one fired a short through the drivers window, grazing the salesmans head.
Just two days later, a salesman who stopped in Rock Hill, SC, for a snack returned to find a window of his car smashed and $1 million in diamonds missing from his trunk.
All four incidents were widely reported in local news media. Kennedy says this type of media attention supports JSA and other industry organizations in their lobbying efforts to increase funding for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. About 11/2 years ago, JSA changed its policy regarding publicity in consumer publications and now readily provides them with information and crime statistics. The consumer press helps us get the attention of lawmakers, he says.
To help keep the number of incidents down, JSA also has conducted seminars for law-enforcement officials in Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta and Orlando. The seminars describe the methods jewelry thieves use and ask for attendees help in combating jewelry-related crimes.
JSA also has sponsored programs for traveling salespeople, offering tips on how to prevent attacks, and JSA Vice President Robert Frank appears at numerous law-enforcement meetings, speaking to as many as 300 or 400 at a time to outline the problem and to appeal for help.
Retailers can help also, says Kennedy. Jewelers can meet with their local police, maybe get several jewelers together and invite the police chief and some officers for coffee, he says. By telling them of the security problems jewelers face, it heightens the priority and establishes a relationship with the police.
by Jack Heeger