The downward trend for jewelry crime ended in 2001

Reversing a nine-year trend, crime in the jewelry industry increased in both dollar amount and number of incidents, according to a recently released report by the Jewelers’ Security Alliance.

In 2001, JSA recorded $122.7 million in losses from crimes against the jewelry industry in the United States, 4% higher than the 2000 figure of $117.9 million. However, the number of criminal events increased by what the JSA calls an “alarming” 21% over 2000 figures.

There were 13 jewelry-related homicides, compared with nine in 2000. However, John Kennedy, JSA president, noted that the number of homicides is far below the average over the past two decades. “We were averaging over 40 homicides a year in the ’80s,” Kennedy told JCK.

The 2001 Annual Crime Report and Directory of Security Products and Services tracks jewelry-related robberies, thefts, and burglaries at retail stores (on-premises) and while on the road (off-premises). Robbery is defined in the report as the taking of property by use of force or fear. Burglary involves entering a premises while closed with the intent to commit a crime. Theft is described as the taking of property without force or fear.

Kennedy says the crime issue is too complex for a single answer to explain the increase, but he notes that crimes against the jewelry industry to a certain degree reflects overall crime trends.

“Crime is a very complex thing in terms of going up and down. It’s due to a whole consolidation of things and a certain amount of good luck and randomness,” he told JCK. “Overall crime is edging up a bit. Last year was the first time it didn’t go down in nine years. The jewelry industry is part of the picture.”

Kennedy adds that there may be a bottoming-out effect, in that crime has gone down to the point where it can’t drop any further. However, he says that in the jewelry industry, there is still room for improvement.

“FBI and criminologists say this in regards to crime in general,” Kennedy says. “However, I believe in the industry, if jewelers acted in a certain secure way, I think losses can keep going down. In the jewelry industry, we’re talking about a defined body of crime and defined situation.”

On-premises crime. Dollar losses from on-premises crimes increased by 10%, from $64.8 million in 2000 to $71.2 million in 2001, according to the report. Actual criminal events shot up 24%, from 1,020 reports in 2000, to 1,269 reports in 2001.

Dollar losses from on-premises theft alone increased 30% in 2001, reaching $27.5 million. Dollar losses from on-premises burglaries and robberies grew more modestly. Meanwhile, the average dollar loss from on-premises robberies fell, from $152,613 in 2000 to $131, 187 in 2001.

Off-premises crime The number of attacks on traveling salespersons and couriers increased by 42%, from 180 cases in 2000 to 255 in 2001. However, average dollar losses in 2001 fell 3%, according to the report, from $53.1 million in 2000 to $51.5 million in 2001.

The most significant off-premises crime figure, according to the report, is a 31% drop in dollar amount of thefts, from $24.4 million in 2000 to $16.9 million in 2001. Dollar loss due to off-premises robbery increased from $27.4 million in 2000 to $32.9 million in 2001. The dollar loss from off-premises burglaries went up slightly to $1.7 million.

Kennedy says the declines in the average dollar amount of stolen goods in general and in off-premises crime in particular were among the few pieces of good news in the report. “There were fewer large losses. The average robbery loss was about $20,000,” he says, adding, “But there are things in the report that I’m not happy about at all.”

On a regional basis, the Southeastern United States experienced a dramatic 89% increase in off-premises crime, due to organized gangs targeting the area in 2001. There were no incidents of losses at airports after Sept. 11, because of increased security at these hubs, the report states.

Kennedy cautions that it’s still too early to tell, but so far, there have been dramatic decreases in crime in the jewelry industry in 2002. He credits this to the Sept. 11 aftermath.

” We’re seeing a reduction in crime this year because of factors after 9/11,” Kennedy said. “I think it’s a combination of tightened immigration, the increased difficulty of travel (both in the United States and abroad), and heightened law enforcement efforts. It wasn’t reflected immediately because people were off balance. But after the first of the year we saw law enforcement acting with heightened awareness. And I think the bad guys know this.

“I’m optimistic about 2002.”