FBI sets up southeast jewelry crime task force

An FBI task force to combat South American jewelry theft gangs in the southeastern United States has been established in Miami, Fla., reports John J. Kennedy, president of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance (JSA). The task force, one of several recent JSA lobbying successes in fighting crime against the industry, is composed of members of the FBI and South Florida police departments.

Such a task force has been JSA’s No. 1 goal for almost a year, following a sharp increase in attacks in the past 18 months on jewelry salespersons traveling in the Southeast. JSA actively lobbied for establishment of the task force during meetings with FBI and other government and law enforcement officials. A similar task force in Los Angeles has operated successfully for more than two years, effectively hindering the activities of theft gangs in southern California.

In addition, Kennedy told JCK, the Southern Jewelry Travelers Association (SJTA) has taken “a strong leadership role in improving the security of its members on the road.” Thanks to efforts of SJTA officials and members working with JSA, a Georgia state legislator and an insurance broker, the FBI offices in Birmingham, Ala., and Atlanta now show “a particularly strong interest in responding to crime against the jewelry industry,” says Kennedy. In addition, JSA and SJTA are assisting a detective unit of the Houston police department, which is “aggressively pursuing the South American gangs.”

The Southeast is just one area in which JSA’s efforts to improve jewelry industry security have been successful in recent months:

* JSA is working closely with an ad hoc task force of the New York City Police Dept. The group, based in Queens, N.Y., is focusing on “a pattern of crimes” against traveling jewelry salespeople between Boston and New York. The group is expected to become a full task force soon.

* Officials of JSA, working with the Manufacturing Jewelers and Suppliers of America (MJSA) and the Jewelers Board of Trade (JBT), have met with officials of the new Transportation Security Administration. “This is the beginning of an effort to educate the officials of this agency about the special security risks and needs of traveling jewelers at airport,” says Kennedy.

* Thanks to a $25,000 grant from Rolex Watch U.S.A. Inc., JSA has increased the number of contributions (usually $500 to $1,000) it makes to private organizations of law enforcement personnel. One result of these contributions is a greater awareness of jewelry crime among literally thousands of active police personnel. Groups to which JSA has contributed in recent months include the National Association of Bunco Investigators; the California Robbery Investigators Association; the Western States Safe and Burglary Investigators Association; the East Coast Armed Robbery Conference; the FBI Agent Association Memorial Scholarship Fund; the Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit; and the National Law Enforcement Property Recovery Association.

* JSA successfully lobbied Congress for more than two years on the need for more law enforcement support and funding to fight crimes against the jewelry trade. Now JSA has “adjusted its strategy [since Sept. 11] in light of the new environment in Washington, which is focused on fighting terrorism,” says Kennedy. JSA now focuses not only on Washington, but also on “local and creative ways, using whatever tools will be most effective, to convince the FBI and law enforcement agencies at all levels of the need to combat crime against the jewelry industry.” JSA is encouraging suggestions and “thoughts on this subject” from the industry. JSA can be reached at 6 E. 45 St., N.Y., N.Y. 10017; (212) 687-0328, or by e-mail at jsa2@jewelerssecurity.org.