Traveling salespersons targeted in the Southeast

Successful efforts by federal law enforcement agencies to curb crime against traveling jewelry salespersons in the Los Angeles area have resulted in a drastic increase in robberies against traveling salespersons in the southeastern United States.

During the week of Oct. 22 alone, at least four robberies of traveling salesmen were reported by various sources. Three of the four robberies happened on the same day. John J. Kennedy, president of Jewelers’ Security Alliance (JSA), says that gangs who were driven out of the Los Angeles area are committing the robberies.

“It is very unusual that four of these happened in the same week,” says Kennedy. “(The Southeast) is the hottest part of the country right now. No question. We have information that, in fact, these are gangs that were in Los Angeles but were driven out because of a very successful FBI probe. Several hundred were apprehended, jailed, and convicted. But some leave and go to other regions.”

The following roundup of robberies of traveling salespersons during the week of Oct. 22 was taken from various sources:

* A traveling salesman was robbed on Oct. 23 while his car was parked near the Karat Patch jewelry store in Charlotte, N.C. A group of people pulled up next to the car, smashed all the windows, and stole the entire line of jewelry.
* Two salespersons representing a Boston-based jewelry manufacturer were robbed in Birmingham, Ala., on Oct. 23 while in a local restaurant. Armed thieves made the salespersons lie down as they took their jewelry line and car keys.
* A traveling salesman was robbed in Henderson, Tenn. on Oct. 23. He had left a jeweler in Brentwood, Tenn., and driven to Henderson to meet a family member. He stored the jewelry in the family member’s house while they went out. They returned to discover that someone had broken into the house and stolen the entire line of jewelry.
* A salesperson in Atlanta, Ga., lost his entire line of jewelry on Oct. 26 when a robber put a gun to the salesperson’s head while he was loading jewelry into his car.
JSA has issued a bulletin to retail jewelers saying that the FBI task forces assigned to combat jewelry thefts against traveling salespersons have been reassigned to investigate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and anthrax scares and to deter future threats. Local law enforcement efforts to combat jewelry theft have been similarly affected.

“The priority for the FBI is now preventing further action in the U.S. by terrorists,” the JSA statement says. “JSA does not expect the FBI or local police to have much manpower to devote to jewelry crime, nor can the industry reasonably expect law enforcement to make jewelry crime a priority while America faces serious terrorist threats.

“Because of these pressing obligations for law enforcement, JSA has suspended until further notice its lobbying campaign for more FBI help for the jewelry industry. Only America’s success around the world, the defeat of terrorism, and a return to more normal conditions would allow the FBI and law enforcement agencies to again give serious attention to a war on jewelry crime.”

The statement, titled “Security is Everybody’s Business,” was written by Kennedy, who notes in the letter that crime took a drop immediately following the Sept. 11 terror attacks, but two weeks later jewelry criminals were back in business.

“JSA strongly advises all jewelers to be on a heightened state of security alert during these times of uncertainty,” Kennedy says in the letter. “Now, more than ever, jewelers must rely on their own strict security practices so that they don’t suffer crippling losses.”

The letter advises retailers to take the following measurers:

* Review company security procedures with staff.
* Show staff members two videos produced by Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company, “Selling with Security” and “Danger on the Road.”
* Review the “JSA Manual of Jewelry Security.”
* Go to the JSA Web site at www.jewelerssecurity.org for crime prevention information.
* Review the updated JSA Bulletin titled, “Basic Recommendations for Emergency and Disaster Planning.”