It’s official: 2022 saw the highest number of jewelry crimes since the Jewelers’ Security Alliance (JSA) began keeping track in the early 1980s.
There were 2,211 crimes committed against U.S. jewelry firms last year, the group said in its annual report. That is more than the preliminary number the JSA released earlier this year (2,141), and a mind-boggling 31% leap from the 1,687 recorded in 2021.
Crimes rose sharply in a variety of categories: smash-and-grabs, grab-and-runs, high-tech burglaries, and distraction thefts.
There was even a steep increase in robberies at mall kiosks. “We used to have a handful,” says JSA president John Kennedy. “Last year, we had 175.”
If there’s any good news here, it’s that most of the crimes involved theft of property and not violence—and the number of people killed during industry crimes remains at historically low levels (three in 2022).
Even so, jewelers are scared, Kennedy says. “In my 30 years here, I have not seen jewelers so concerned about crime, even when the statistics were about as bad. On the news, all you see is just crime, crime, crime.”
But the fear is not unjustified, when you consider the industry is much smaller than it was decades ago.
Just recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, industry crime hit a record low. It had also been trending downward for the past few decades. But now, Kennedy says, the jewelry industry has become the victim of larger societal ills.
“Crime has been going up all over the world,” he says. “In the U.S., in particular, there’s a lot of anger, intense disagreement, partisanship, shootings, flouting of the law. It creates an atmosphere of lawlessness.”
So far in 2023, the JSA has recorded slightly less crime than the prior year. “It’s abated a little,” Kennedy says. “I still think it’ll be very high, but I don’t think we’ll hit the same level we hit in 2023.
“Law enforcement is super aware of these cases,” he notes. “We have hundreds of FBI looking at these cases.”
The most important thing for jewelers is to keep the issue top of mind. “Jewelers have been lulled into a false sense of security, especially during COVID, when crime was far down,” says Kennedy. “Jewelers should have brief staff meetings once a week in the morning and talk about security. You have to remind people constantly to be aware and alert.”
Crime prevention tips can be found in this JCK article; on JSA’s website, which also includes reports on recent incidents; and at Jewelers Mutual’s recently launched Jeweler Safety and Security Academy.
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