What’s With All the Jewel Thefts in France?

France is known for many things: Paris, great food—and now jewelry thefts.

It wasn’t just the possibly record-setting Leviev theft in Cannes last week, which was followed by another million-dollar theft in the same city three days later. According to John Kennedy, president of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance, France has the same amount of jewelry thefts as the United States, despite having one-fifth the amount of jewelers.

Why is that? There has been a lot of chatter that the guards at the Leviev hotel exhibit were unarmed. Likely, that was no accident; overseas laws are far less welcoming of private armed guards than they are in America, and some hotels have policies against them. That is their right. But Kennedy feels if you don’t have proper security, you shouldn’t have that much jewelry out on display—and so easy to remove. (The Leviev heist took less than a minute.) The other solution would be to put a local police car out in front of the hotel; that doesn’t seem to have happened either, though it is not clear why that was. (Leviev isn’t commenting for now.)

After the last big jewelry heist at the Brussels airport, which also had a haul in the tens of millions, I talked about how the international industry needs to work on security in a more coordinated way. Kennedy doesn’t think that it’s possible to start a worldwide version of his group, noting that a lot of the work he does—talking with investigators, sharing information with jewelers, and getting law enforcement to increase industry protection—can only be done locally. (There are jewelry security groups in Canada and the United Kingdom.)

Still, he thinks that national industry associations can do a lot more to increase security—including quickly informing jewelers about specific crimes, and disseminating guidelines for best practices, in accordance with local norms.

In the end, these thefts hurt the industry at large. The gems in the recent robbery weren’t just from Leviev; some New York City wholesalers had items there, too. Considering some of these theft groups are international, perhaps it’s time for the industry to make our efforts to fight them international as well. Because it seems the thieves have upped their game. Now we need to up ours.

JCK News Director