Invasions of Jewelers' Homes Increasing

March 28, 2003

Invasions of Jewelers' Homes Increasing

The March 19 home invasion of Michigan jeweler Deborah Harrington marks the fifth invasion of a retail jeweler's home in the last four months, reports the Jewelers' Security Alliance, which sent out a repeat alert to its membership concerning precautions jewelers should take to prevent such incidents, which are listed below.

The recent invasion took place just five miles from the home of jeweler Marco Pesce, who was murdered along with his family on Dec. 22 after a home invasion. The two incidents appear unrelated, however, and police told The Detroit Free Press they expect two alleged international jewel thieves to be charged today in the Harrington incident. By coincidence, yesterday was the start of the trial for two suspects charged with the murders of Marco Pesce and his family.

The latest invasion occured after Harrington and her husband returned home from a visit to a tanning salon. Entering their garage, they were rushed by gunmen wearing masks. The couple was taken into their house, 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 bound as well. When Harrington's son, Reid Adomat, arrived home at 2 a.m., he also was bound. At 5 a.m., Harrington was forced to dress for work and the robbers drove her to her store, where she deactivated the alarm system. The robbers took approximately $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.

Preventing Home Invasions

Home invasions expose jewelers and their families to gun-wielding robbers who often injure them before taking store keys and attempting to hold family members hostage, says JSA. About half the cases JSA sees each year happen to retail jewelers; the other half are suffered by traveling sales persons. Here's JSA's advice:

• Since robbers usually case their victims, always be aware so you know if you're being watched or followed. People sitting in a car near your home or store for too long, a car that follows you when you leave the store, suspicious phone calls/customers should all trigger a call to police to check possible suspects.
• Keep a suspicious incident logbook that all your employees can record suspicious incidents in. Ask them to write down the time of incident, license plate numbers, names used, and suspects' physical descriptions.
• You must train your family – including younger members, babysitters and temporary visitors – to avoid giving information on the phone or opening the door to unknown people, perhaps including delivery personnel. They also 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 versus 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 if there's trouble. It should be a statement unlikely to arouse robbers' suspicions.

by Peggy Jo Donahue

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