12.20.22 – Jeweler Security – New York
Ahead of the holidays, JSA’s John Kennedy outlines five common jewelry crimes and what to do, and not to do, if they happen in your store.
While the final data won’t be in until early 2023, Jewelers’ Security Alliance President John J. Kennedy estimates jewelry crime hit a five-year high this year.
Retailers are nervous as they prepare for what typically are some of the busiest days of the year in their stores.
While it’s too late for many to make long-term investments or wholesale changes in security equipment or procedures, there are small adjustments jewelers can make immediately that might help.
Below, Kennedy outlines the five types of jewelry crimes JSA sees happening most frequently right now and shares tips for preventing, or mitigating the effects of, these crimes.
1. Distraction Thefts
Biggest mistake: Showing too much product at once and/or leaving the showcase unlocked during presentations
Kennedy said the number of skilled distractions thefts is on the rise after declining in 2020 and 2021, when COVID restrictions limited travel.
Often, these thefts involve a group of people—three to five, or even more—coming in together, flashing cash or bragging about how much they are going to spend, and then asking to see multiple pieces of jewelry.
“Their goal,” Kennedy said, “is to get as much product out [of the showcases] as possible and confuse you as much as possible.”
The suspect will then either palm the jewelry and/or reach in an open showcase to grab it.
One member of the group also might distract the store’s salespeople while another heads to the safe to see if it’s unlocked. If it is, they clean it out, Kennedy said.
He said jewelers also need to keep showcases locked, show only one item at a time, and keep track of the product as it’s being shown.
He also noted that retailers should be wary of people entering the store in groups of three or more.
2. Safe Burglaries
Biggest mistake: Not responding to any and all communications from the alarm company
More sophisticated gang of burglars are also circulating again as COVID travel restrictions are lifted, with suspects cutting wires or otherwise disabling a store’s electrical box in order to take out the alarm system and security cameras.
They then enter the store through the roof, or via an adjoining store that is unoccupied, unalarmed, or otherwise easily can be entered.
Once inside, “These people go after your safe. They have the tools or equipment to saw into [it],” Kennedy said, and this means big losses.
In these types of burglaries, jewelers receive messages along the lines of “communication error” or “power interruption” from their alarm company, but they don’t respond in the same way they do when they get an alarm alert.
That is a mistake, Kennedy said.
“You must respond to any type of anomaly you get from your alarm company. You have to go to the store, or have somebody go to the store, with the police.”
He added that retailers need to have a robust call list for the alarm company so someone is always available to respond, regardless of how many people are on vacation, out sick or otherwise unavailable.
Jewelers who have done so have seen burglars fleeing the scene, scared off by the arrival of police.
3. Smash-and-grab robberies
Biggest mistake: Trying to stop the suspects or otherwise interfering
In some smash-and-grab robberies, the suspects are armed with guns or knives in addition to the sledgehammers or whatever implement they are using to destroy showcases.
Jewelers can mitigate losses in the short term by not putting all high-value merchandise in the same showcase or keeping some items in the safe.
Longer-term, they can invest in laminated showcases that are smash-resistant.
The most important thing, though, is for retailers to just stay out of the way when a smash and grab is happening, Kennedy said.
Don’t try to stop the robbers by throwing things at them—like a chair or, as Kennedy saw in one instance, a stapler—or otherwise getting involved. It’s dangerous and can lead to injuries, as happened recently at a Macy’s store in the Atlanta suburbs, or even death.
4. Grab-and-run thefts
Biggest mistake: Showing multiple items at a time and/or putting a tray full of jewelry on the counter
Kennedy said grab and runs are the most common type of jewelry crime. It’s simple and exactly what it sounds like; a salesperson brings out a couple of necklaces or watches, and the suspect snatches them and runs out the door.
While he admits it’s tricky to tell salespeople not to show product to customers, showing one item at a time reduces the risk of major losses, as does not leaving trays of jewelry out on the counter.
This is especially true when dealing with new customers, or when someone comes in and asks to see the “most expensive” watches, necklaces, etc., the store has.
5. Three-minute burglaries
Biggest mistake: Leaving product out and visible when the store is closed
Three-minute burglaries refer to incidences in which the suspects smash in a window or door and take whatever is there to grab. They don’t take very long and, unlike rooftop safe burglaries, aren’t normally committed by professional criminals with a lot of know-how, tools, or organization.
Kennedy said retailers can mitigate losses from three-minute burglaries simply by putting product in the safe at night. If there isn’t room in the safe, then at least store it out of sight.
Also, do not cover showcases with cloth when the store is closed.
“They assume there is something there. Even if there is no product there, it increases the risk,” he said.
Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.