The South American theft gangs that prey on jewelry couriers are among the more methodical criminals out there, according to James Liscinsky, a senior special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
“They are the most proficient, intelligent criminals I have ever dealt with,” he says. “They are very patient and they are aware of law enforcement, and that makes them difficult to catch.”
Liscinsky played a major role in apprehending one gang, which stole $4.6 million from traveling jewelry salespeople in Virginia, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Maryland. In December, the gang’s reputed leader was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
After interrogating gang members, Liscinsky discovered what they look for the following when identifying jewelry salespeople:
* Bar codes on the windows of cars, which identify it as a rental. Liscinsky recommends salespeople take proactive measures to cover up bar codes with stickers and sports emblems.
* Dress clothes hanging in the backseat.
* Road maps visible on the dashboard or seat.
* Out-of-state license plates. Ask the rental car company for a car with in-state tags, Liscinsky says.
* Gangs profile based on race, gender, and age. They typically look for white, middle-aged, well-dressed men.
He notes that gang members tend to use common vehicles, such as Nissan Altimas and Chevrolet Malibus. They will often utilize females to enter a jeweler and scope out their target. Sometimes they will even appear to be a couple holding hands, he says.
Liscinsky provided the following tips to avoid becoming a victim:
* Prior to arriving at any hotel for the evening, take several turns and vary your route.
* Be on the lookout for suspicious vehicles.
* Members of these groups travel to advertised trunk shows or trade shows. “Be aware of your surroundings and utilize available security at these events,” he advises.
* “Assume every major city in the country has groups, and assume these groups are always working,” he says. “Be alert.”
* If these gangs accost you, do not resist. They will not hesitate to use violence.
* If you suspect you are being followed, call 911 and request a police car meet you somewhere. You may also want to drive to the police station.
Finally, he notes that salespeople are starting to carry less valuable “brass and glass” samples, and he thinks this will deter criminals.
“If you take the profit away, you take the crime away,” he says.
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