September 9, 2002
James B. White Dies at 82
James B. White, who headed the Jewelers' Security Alliance for 29 years before his retirement in 1992, died Sept. 6 after a brief illness. He was 82.
White is credited with changing the direction of JSA, in existence since 1883. Until his tenure began, JSA concentrated on capturing crooks who preyed on the jewelry industry. But White understood preventing crime was far more effective and he instituted a string of innovations that continue to this day.
Emergency alerts to members after a crime had been attempted or committed were the cornerstone of White's strategy. Printed alerts, including photos of suspects when available, went out by mail, then fax. Phone chains speeded up the process. Jewelers in the area where the crime had been committed would be given a crook's method of operation and a description of him or her where possible. Nationwide alerts were also instituted.
White also wrote special crime-prevention reports for various segments of the industry, including one entitled "Salesmen's Security." He also immediately changed JSA's philosophy on dealing with gun-toting criminals. Previously, jewelers had been encouraged to stand up to robbers, even to the point of keeping guns in their stores. White was more concerned for jewelers' safety. He advised obeying all the gunman's orders and cooperating. He told jewelers not to reach for alarm buttons when the robber was on the premises and strongly recommended jewelers get rid of their guns, which more often than not escalated violence.
The ex-FBI agent also issued a series of reports on alarms systems, safes and other security equipment that helped jewelers stay ahead of criminals who were becoming more technically savvy and using more sophisticated torches and tools. He helped jewelers learn the ratings used by Underwriters Laboratories to grade crime prevention equipment. During the 1980s, when crime against jewelers skyrocketed, White worked with Jewelers' Mutual Insurance Co. to prepare a series of award-winning videos teaching jewelers safety precautions and theft and burglary-prevention methods. He also expanded staff and extended his network of connections to law enforcement agencies.
White, who was trained as a lawyer, had a long career in criminal investigations before joining JSA. He investigated the 1950s college-basketball game-fixing scandals for the New York County district attorney's office and worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in the South District of New York, where he participated in Attorney General Robert Kennedy's program against organized crime, and served as assistant counsel for the New York Harbor Waterfront Commission, in addition to his stint with the FBI.
After retiring from JSA, White acted as a consultant to the organization, while continuing to serve as secretary for the Twenty-Four Karat Club of the City of New York, a position he held at his death. He was a dedicated worker for industry charities, an avid runner and a proud member of the Irish American community.
by Peggy Jo Donahue