Professional Jeweler Archive: JSA Issues Alerts on Home Invasions; New Cases Raise Concern

May 2003


JSA Issues Alerts on Home Invasions; New Cases Raise Concern

Here's how to protect yourself and your business

A wave of cases involving invasions of jewelers’ homes prompted the Jewelers’ Security Alliance to release two alerts to its members in March.

Though few home invasions are as brutal as the late-2002 murder of a jeweler and his family in Livonia, MI (“Killed at Home,” February 2003, p. 78), other home invasions have occurred recently that worry police and the JSA.

These crimes exposed jewelers and their families to gun-wielding robbers who often injured them before taking store keys and trying to hold family members hostage. About half the cases JSA sees each year happen to retail jewelers; the other half are suffered by traveling salespeople.

The Latest Case

The March 19 invasion of Michigan jeweler Deborah Harrington’s home marks the fifth incidence in the past four months, reports JSA, which sent two alerts advising members of preventive precautions.

The Harrington invasion took place just five miles from the home of Livonia jeweler Marco Pesce, who was murdered along with his family on Dec. 22 after robbers broke into his home, held his family hostage and forced his son to call the jeweler home from the store.

The two incidents appear unrelated, however, and police told The Detroit Free Press they had in custody two alleged international jewel thieves expected to be charged in the Harrington incident. By coincidence, the Harrington home invasion came just as the trial was starting for two suspects charged with the murders of the Pesce family.

The latest invasion occurred when Harrington and her husband arrived home. Entering their garage, they were rushed by gunmen wearing masks and taken into their home, where the husband was tied with duct tape. Harrington, who manages a Jared Galleria of Jewelry in Novi, MI, was forced to give up her personal valuables and was then bound as well. When Harrington’s son, Reid Adomat, arrived home at 2 a.m., he was bound also.

At 5 a.m., Harrington was forced to dress for work, then the robbers drove her to her store, where she had to deactivate the alarm system. The robbers took about $1 million in watches and jewelry, according to The Free Press. Harrington was bound again and warned not to call police for 15 minutes or her husband and son would be killed. Eventually, Harrington got loose and called police, who went to her residence and found her husband and son, who had not been harmed any further.

U.S. and local law enforcement agencies worked cooperatively to arrest two suspects in the Harrington case and two more suspects were being pursued at press time. Police, acting on search warrants, entered five Detroit homes about a week after the Harrington incident and were able to arrrest the two suspects and recover most of the stolen jewelry, which was in a duffel bag that had been used during the robbery.

Preventing the Crime

JSA’s advice:

  • Because robbers usually case their victims, always be aware of being watched or followed. People sitting in a car near your home or store too long, a car that follows you when you leave the store and suspicious phone calls or customers should trigger a call to police to check possible suspects.
  • Keep a logbook so all your employees can record suspicious incidents. Ask them to write down the time, license plate numbers, names used and suspects’ physical descriptions.
  • You must train your family – including younger members, babysitters and temporary visitors. They should not give information on the phone or open the door to unknown people, perhaps including delivery personnel. They should become aware of suspicious people watching the house. If you have trusted neighbors, ask them to also keep an eye out. Household help of any kind can make you more vulnerable, so do background checks and screen carefully.
  • When choosing a new home, consider security issues, such as living on a dead-end street vs. heavily traveled areas, the closeness of neighbors and the garage or parking set-up. Basics include having proper locks, alarms systems and good lighting. Some jewelers highly recommend having a dog at home for warning and protection.
  • Keep large safes or quantities of jewelry merchandise out of your house.
  • Have an unlisted and unpublished home phone number and keep a charged cell phone with you at all times, including at your bedside at night.
  • Get to know someone in a supervisory position at your local police department and advise him or her of the special risks jewelers face, so when you need to call, your contact is familiar with your needs.
  • Have a security code-phrase family members can use on the phone to alert each other there’s trouble. It should be a statement unlikely to arouse robbers’ suspicions.

– by Peggy Jo Donahue

Copyright © 2003 by Bond Communications