The key to combating jewelry crime is remaining alert to potential threats, FBI agent Eric Ives told JCK in an interview.
He says that while overall violent crime against the industry has fallen, retailers should be mindful of several troubling new schemes, including one where thieves put GPS devices on store managers’ cars and then track their locations. A gang that specialized in this was caught last year.
“It might not be practical to climb under your car and look for a GPS device every night,” says Ives, who is unit chief for the bureau’s international organized crime task force. “But it’s just being diligent when observing situations and being aware of the characteristics of surveillance. If every Wednesday and Friday, you see a strange car outside your house, that is very suspicious. It shouldn’t control you, but you need to be aware of these things.”
The other disturbing trend is home invasions, which sometimes involve kidnapping of store personnel. While these have occasionally occurred in the banking industry, they are relatively new for jewelers, Ives says.
He warns that store personnel need to vary their schedules and routes to and from work, keep a logbook, and notify law enforcement about suspicious incidents. (Other tips can be found on the Jewelers’ Security Alliance website.)
Even employees who work at a place like GIA need to exercise vilgilance, he says. Though they may not be carrying goods home, criminals may not know that.
Ives says law enforcement is paying more and more attention to jewelry crime with criminals increasingly laundering money through gems.
“We work a lot more diamond-related cases today than we ever did,” he says. “Diamonds are valuable, easy to conceal, and have a lot of value in a small item. Jewelry crime is a gateway to other crimes, like terrorism and organized crime.”
He notes that al-Qaeda terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar was known to launder proceeds thought diamonds.
“When you sell diamonds, you don’t always know who is at the other end of that stone,” he says. “It could be Charles Taylor or the Pink Panthers or Mokhtar Belmokhtar.”
He calls laundering of Kimberley Process certificates a “worldwide problem” that is drawing greater law-enforcement attention.
“The manipulation of the KP is a huge concern for law enforcement globally,” he says, noting that tainted diamonds often receive certificates from lax jurisdictions and then are allowed to enter the regular stream of commerce. He says the certification scheme needs greater enforcement.
He adds the industry should expect to see increased enforcement of laws that target money laundering and regulate secondhand buying.
Ives, who has worked on a number of high-profile jewelry-related crimes, spoke to JCK while attending GIA’s annual two-week conference for law enforcement, which this year drew attendees from Africa and Belgium. He says the industry has played a huge role in educating people in his line of work.
“The FBI used to maintain a gem and jewelry database, and we now defer to JSA,” he says. “We can’t function without those relationships.”
For more anticrime tips from the FBI, see this talk from special agent Daniel McCaffrey.
Other advice for crime prevention and store safety: