At the March 19 Jewelers’ Security Alliance (JSA) luncheon, JSA president John Kennedy made a startling announcement: 2022 was the worst year for jewelry crime he’d seen in his three decades heading the group.
“Over 31 years, the number of crimes has generally oscillated between 1,300 and 1,600,” he tells JCK. “But in 2022 the number of crimes jumped to 2,141, which is a 27% increase [from 2021’s 1687], and something we’ve never seen before.”
Total dollar losses from industry-related crimes rose 70% last year, he says.
Incidents were up across the board: Robberies, burglaries, and smash-and-grabs all increased in 2022 compared with 2021. Even off-premise crime—which had been falling with fewer salespeople on the road—staged a comeback.
The number of homicides was around the same as the previous year: 2022 saw two jewelry-crime-related deaths, down from double digits in decades past.
Last year’s statistics represent a stark reversal of the trend JSA has observed over the past few decades, which showed a steady decrease in jewelry crime. During the height of COVID-19 pandemic, it hit a record low.
But now it’s spiking, and Kennedy sees a few reasons for that. The rise in jewelry incidents coincides with an increase in crime in general, and retail crime in particular.
“We are in a very violent period in our nation’s history,” he says. “We are seeing shootings in schools, nightclubs, and malls.”
There are also economic factors at play: “Whatever financial assistance people were receiving during COVID is gone, so now they are out committing crimes.”
In addition, while the industry has generally shrunk, “the existing stores are better capitalized, that’s why they’ve survived,” says Kennedy. “So while a lot of them have better security and guards, they also have higher dollar losses if they do get hit.”
Kennedy says the JSA board is taking the problem very seriously and plans to increase the group’s personnel as well as its funding.
“People are more nervous than they ever have been,” he says. “Everyone sees the incidents on the news. Some of the nervousness is based on the publicity, but unfortunately a lot of it is based on the reality.”
Crime prevention tips and reports on recent incidents can be found on the JSA’s website.
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