Wave of high-tech burglaries hits New York and California

A pattern of jewelry burglaries in California and New York has created enough concern for the Jewelers’ Security Alliance to issue a bulletin to keep its members aware of the crime wave and to provide a list of recommendations to help keep retail operations and manufacturing centers secure.

The crime spree has been going on for about the past four months, says John J. Kennedy, JSA president. In both areas, burglars have disabled alarms or phone lines and burned through safes at temperatures as high as 900 degrees, mostly with burning rods. In California the burglaries have occurred in retail jewelry operations, while in New York, jewelry manufacturers have been targeted.

According to the JSA bulletin, JSA has reported at least five confirmed cases in California and at least seven confirmed cases in New York, primarily in Manhattan and Queens. The bulletin adds that JSA has received reports of more cases that are similar.

“To see this many burglaries at one time is unusual,” Kennedy said. “It’s unusual to have this concentration in parts of the country at the same time.”

In the California cases where there were losses, the jewelry stores either didn’t have “line security,” an element in an alarm system that confirms it’s working, or the line security malfunctioned.

“What burglars do is cut the lines and wait a half hour. If no one comes, they enter the building,” Kennedy says.

In the four confirmed cases in New York where there were losses, the alarm company received a signal and responded. The burglars then waited for the security personnel to leave, and, with the alarm lines still malfunctioning, entered the building and eventually the vault.

JSA offers the following eight recommendations to combat this kind of high-tech crime:

1 If you receive notification from your alarm company that your alarm system has been cut off or is not operating, you must not leave your premises unprotected while the system is out of service. Someone should stay in the building, making their presence obvious, or you should hire an armed guard until the alarm company and/or telephone company repairs your alarm system. Kennedy says this is the most important precaution a company can take.

2 Leave the keys to your building with the alarm company. If you don’t provide the keys and the security persons cannot enter, it is extremely difficult for them to determine what is occurring inside the building. Put all your jewelry merchandise into safes or vaults at night.

3 A jeweler with a significant inventory should have two different alarm companies, in case one system is compromised. Use two different systems of transmission, such as telephone lines and a radio backup in case a telephone line goes out. One system could protect the interior and the other the exterior.

4 Make sure you have line security. With line security, if burglars attempt to disable the alarm system, it will trigger an alarm. “If you do not have line security that is functioning, you do not have an effective alarm system,” the bulletin states.

5 Make sure you understand the alarm protection you are receiving and that you are receiving what you purchased.

6 Test your alarm system periodically, and get confirmation that the alarm system is properly maintained.

7 Choose a UL listed central station alarm company.

8 Provide your alarm company with cell phone numbers where an owner and/or designated employees can be called if there is an alarm condition.