May 17, 2005
Nine FBI Task Forces Fight Organized Retail Theft
As part of a major FBI initiative against organized retail theft by criminal enterprises, there are nine new FBI-led task forces responsible for conducting investigations of major theft crimes, specifically including jewelry and gem theft, reports the Jewelers' Security Alliance. This expansion of the FBI's efforts against organized retail crime was described by FBI Assistant Director Chris Swecker in testimony March 17 before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.
"These task forces, which combine the resources of local, state and federal law enforcement, as well as manufacturing and retail security personnel, are applying investigative techniques and strategies which the FBI has successfully utilized to target traditional organized crime, including the development of a solid intelligence base and the use of undercover operations and various electronic surveillance techniques," said Swecker.
Swecker listed task forces led by FBI field offices in Houston, Memphis, Miami (2), Newark, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, San Juan, Puerto Rico. "In field offices that do not currently have formal major theft task forces, significant ORT investigations are being conducted by criminal enterprise squads," Swecker said.
JSA President John Kennedy praised the FBI's ORT Initiative. "The jewelry industry has been very happy to see the FBI becoming more and more involved in the fight against jewelry crime. Compared to just a few years ago, the enforcement efforts today by the FBI, in cooperation with local police and jewelry industry security personnel, are far more intensive and effective than in the past. Having nine more task forces with a special interest in the jewelry industry will be a huge help."
Kennedy cited statistics from the first quarter of 2005 as evidence of law enforcement's increasingly successful war on jewelry crime. "Following a double digit decline in crime against the jewelry industry in 2004, we have continued to see excellent results in the first quarter of 2005. For the first three months of 2005, the number of crimes in the U.S. against jewelry firms decreased by 15.8% compared to the same period last year. This remarkable decline in crime against jewelers is directly a result of the dedicated and cooperative efforts by federal and local law enforcement agencies, especially the task forces and outstanding agency interest in jewelry we have seen for several years in Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta, Miami and New York City."