JSA asks for FBI task force to fight sharp rise in southern jewelry crimes

The Jewelers Security Alliance will ask the Federal Bureau of Investigation to create a new task force to fight a sharp increase in on-the-road jewelry robberies in the Southeast.

JSA will make the formal request before summer’s end on behalf of jewelry industry’s anti-jewelry crime coalition.

John Kennedy, JSA president, made the announcement on July 30 at the summer meeting of the coalition’s board during the Jewelers of America Show in New York City.

Robberies of traveling jewelry salespeople have risen sharply in the first six months of 2001, according to JSA data. There were 120 incidents through June 30, for a total loss of $21 million. Both figures are substantially higher than figures for the first six months of 2000. Many of the crimes occurred in the Southeast.

The rise in crime there is, ironically, a result of the crackdown by the FBI and local law enforcement (especially in the Los Angeles area) on South American theft gangs in California and the West in the past two years.

The industry coalition has successfully lobbied Congress for more money for the FBI’s anti-gem theft efforts. Those resulted in significantly lower thefts and losses in the past 18 months.

However, noted Kennedy, the crackdown there has led the South American theft gangs to concentrate on other parts of the country, especially the Southeast. Losses there have been sizeable, including one for $2.7 million in West Palm Beach, Fla., in February and another for $1.5 million in San Antonio, Texas, in April.

The affected areas include Texas, Florida, North and South Carolina, and the Atlanta area.

Underlining the seriousness of the problem was the presence of several members of the Southern Jewelry Travelers Association (representing most jewelry salespeople in the South).

‘We need help,’ said one. ‘We’re becoming another Los Angeles.’