Congress tells FBI: ‘disrupt’ jewelry theft gangs

The jewelry industry proposal for more FBI help to fight jewelry crimes, especially theft gangs that attack traveling salespeople, was approved by Congress on Dec. 21 and signed by President Clinton shortly afterward.

Passage of the law capped a year of intense lobbying by the industry-wide Security Coalition, led by the Jewelers Security Alliance. The year saw a significant rise in Congress’s awareness of the problem and a strong increase in enforcement by the FBI. The 2000 lobbying effort ‘has been one of the most significant projects in JSA’s 117-year history,’ says John Kennedy, JSA president.

The approved measure, part of the 2000 – 2001 appropriations budget for federal departments of Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary, is somewhat different-but more beneficial for the industry-than the coalition’s original proposal to add $2.2 million and 10 more agents to the FBI’s fight against jewelry crime.

The final version of the House and Senate bills officially defines South American theft gangs that prey on traveling salespeople as ‘an organized criminal enterprise,’ like the Mafia, giving the problem a much higher priority in enforcement. It directs the FBI to use ‘multi-agency task forces’ and ‘appropriate resources’ from the FBI’s $500 million fund to fight organized crime to ‘disrupt’ the robbery gangs and their activities in the United States.

The Congress has ‘spoken very clearly that they view this issue as an important one deserving serious attention by the FBI,’ says Kennedy.

Key to JSA’s lobbying efforts, he added, was the ‘expert and energetic work’ by JSA’s law firm Thelen, Reid & Priest, whose Washington lobbying arm planned every phase of the campaign. ‘It devised the strategy that captured the attention of Congress and had our proposal included in the Appropriations Bill,’ he noted. ‘Without their help, we would have never gotten to first base.’

The success of the coalition’s lobbying is just the start, not the end, he adds. ‘We’re not stopping. We’ll continue lobbying [for the 2002 budget] and monitoring the Bureau’s progress against the gangs. We are going keep the fight going.’