F.B.I., jewelry industry in search of the ‘gate-cutters crew’

The jewelry industry and the F.B.I. are offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the capture of a group of jewel thieves that have reportedly burglarized nearly five dozen jewelry stores throughout the East and has netted about $5.1 million in men’s watches, chains, bracelets, and rings.

The F.B.I. has set up a telephone hot line, 800-225-5324, and is offering a $25,000 reward, officials reportedly said at a news conference in Washington on Thursday. Jewelers are offering another $25,000, John Kennedy of the Jewelers Security Alliance reportedly said. Kennedy also attended the press conference.

F.B.I. officials said the crew certainly was responsible for at least 51 burglaries in 10 Eastern states and might have been involved in four others in Florida and one in Illinois, the Associated Press reports.

Investigators said that the thieves had ties to New York City, and that their most recent crime occurred on Wednesday at a Zales Jewelers in Bay Shore, on Long Island, the AP reports.

The core group of thieves numbers four to five men, although some break-ins involved up to six people. They wear hooded sweatshirts and choose jewelers in malls that are just off major roadways and allow a quick exit. They ignore the most expensive merchandise, the AP reports.

The thieves cut through security gates and clean out display cases filled with men’s gold jewelry and watches. They particularly like Movado watches, FBI officials reportedly said the news conference. The group has been informally labeled the “gate-cutters crew,” the AP reports.

The crew does extensive surveillance before the crime, sometimes slashing the tires on mall security vehicles or putting glue in the locks and ignore, F.B.I. and local police officials reportedly said at the news conference. The crimes take about four minutes.

The items taken have no serial numbers, making them nearly impossible to trace, F.B.I. officials told the AP.

Though the gang targets primarily mall chain stores, there are some things independent jewelers can do, Kennedy told JCK. One is to put as much inventory away at night as possible, which should be a regular practice anyway. “Goods left out at night, and visible, are always a tempting target,” he noted.  

“If you see something suspicious at a mall-in a store, at an entrance by a side door-report it immediately to your local police,” he urged.

William George Shuster, JCK Senior Editor, contributed to this story.