Over the years, JCK has written about crimes against jewelers across the country in an attempt to inform, but also to offer retailers guidance on the best practices to keep their stores and employees safe.
John Kennedy, president of Jewelers Security Alliance, was kind enough to answer several of my questions and give jewelers tips on how to better protect their businesses.
Many of the recent jewelry crime reports have said more crime is occurring because of high unemployment and the high cost of gold and diamonds. Has that been a trend that JSA has seen?
Despite popular opinion to the contrary, academic research and JSA’s own statistics fail to demonstrate that there is any relationship between high unemployment and the high cost of precious metals and diamonds and the frequency of crime against jewelers. Professional gangs commit crimes against jewelers regardless of the economic climate. The number of crimes this year appears to be actually down, but the sharp increase in the price of precious metals and diamonds makes the total losses to be larger in dollar terms than some recent past years.
Based on the numbers you have through September, do you think the jewelry crime rate has improved over years past, or is it consistent from what we’ve seen the last couple of years?
Over the last 10 to 20 years, crime against the jewelry industry has seen a dramatic decline. Any given nine-month period is too short to declare a trend. Crime rates fluctuate. Even if some types of crimes increase this year, the overall trend, over the last several years, is down.
Recently, it seems that surveillance has played a bigger role in catchng thieves. Do you think that’s because of improved technology, or because more jewelers are buying into the importance of having a surveillance system in place?
Very few jewelry stores actually capture a useable picture of the criminals. JSA records at least 1,300+ crimes a year, and the number of decent pictures is probably 150, at the most. The vast majority of pictures are useless for identification purposes, primarily because the cameras are too high, capturing the heads of the criminals, or the lighting is terrible, or the cameras are too far away. JSA is thrilled to get a decent surveillance photo or video, which is all too rare. Digital technology has improved the images that JSA does receive, but that is the exception.
How critical is it for a jeweler’s safety to comply with a criminal’s demands?
The number of homicides of jewelers has declined is the last 10 years from 15 a year to five or less a year. I believe that this is is in large part because jewelers have learned that to resist is to risk your life and the lives of your employees, customers, and innocent passersby. When a criminal enters your store with a gun, he knows what he is going to do. A jeweler will always be in second place. Sure, occasionally the jeweler will prevail, when the criminal is incompetent, but almost always the criminal will win. Is your merchandise worth your life, the lives of your employees, or your loved ones? This is why jewelers need insurance and shouldn’t resist, so that they can live to sell another day.
Jewelers unBLocked, a block insurance program for jewelers, also sent me several tips that jewelers should implement:
- Never open or close the store alone. One person should lock or unlock the doors, while a second person watches from a safe distance outside with a cell phone to call police if needed.
- Look at, make eye contact, greet, and note the appearance of every customer who enters your store. Criminals don’t like to be noticed.
- Have an “alert system” in place for your store. If you believe you have suspicious persons in your store, have a code word or phrase to alert the other employees in your store that you believe a crime may be about to occur.
- Your counter display cases should be built in a way that does not permit someone to crawl under them.
- Split your higher value merchandise among different display cases. Robbers frequently smash cases and remove goods themselves, rather than demand that the jeweler open the cases or safe. Time is of the essence for the robber who wants to get out of your store quickly. Making the robber’s job slower and more difficult will reduce the amount the robber can easily take.
For more tips on jewelry crime prevention, check out: