The Jewelers’ Security Alliance (JSA) has recorded eight smash-and-grab robberies at Southern California jewelry stores in the last 10 days, as well as an unsettling string of thefts in Colorado.
The California robberies began on Jan. 12 and generally feature groups of masked men—one group numbered seven people—who smash jewelers’ cases then make a quick getaway. In most cases, the robbers are armed with guns, but in one instance they wielded pepper spray.
The highest-profile robbery occurred at a store on Jan. 18 inside the historic Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, former home of the Academy Awards ceremony.
The thefts are, for now, localized to Southern California. The JSA has logged two robberies in Los Angeles, as well as incidents in San Diego, Cerritos, Artesia, San Bernardino, Pico Rivera, and Whittier.
JSA president John Kennedy says that it’s not clear if these robberies are related but considers that a safe assumption.
“It definitely seems like they are the same gang or same group of gangs,” he says. “When you get this kind of cluster, you have to assume they are related. Eight robberies in 10 days is really a lot.”
The robbers were all masked, making it difficult to get a good description, he says, though one of the suspects at the Biltmore robbery was female.
Kennedy recommends that area jewelers take the standard precautions, like keeping a logbook of suspicious incidents and and sharing information with fellow retailers and law enforcement.
Kennedy’s main tip: If your store does get hit, don’t resist. This appears to be a particularly aggressive, violent group.
“They are coming in with guns,” he says. “If you resist them or chase them out the door, you are going to get shot. The most important thing is to not get yourself killed.”
Long-term, all retail jewelers should consider installing burglar-resistant glass on showcases, door buzzers, and eye-level cameras, the JSA says, as well as spreading out valuable product among several cases and perhaps hiring off-duty police officers to act as armed security guards.
On top of this, JSA has seen another alarming crime cluster: In the last five days, there have been three gunpoint robberies at jewelers in Colorado Springs, Colo. That many robberies in the same town is also unusual, Kennedy says.
Anyone with information on these thefts is urged to get in touch with JSA (212-687-0326) or the Colorado Springs Police Department (719-444-7000).
Top: Surveillance footage of Jan. 21 robbery in Cerritos, Calif. (image courtesy of Jewelers’ Security Alliance)