Crimes Against Traveling Salespeople Decreased 47% In 2000, Says JSA

Robberies of traveling jewelry salespeople dropped 47% in 2000 to the lowest number since the mid-1980s, says Jewelers’ Security Alliance. The good news was announced Jan. 13 at JSA’s annual luncheon in New York City, which was attended by 135 jewelry industry leaders. The meeting focused on JSA’s successful lobbying efforts in 2000 to increase funding for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s fight against jewelry crimes (see following story), the strong increase in enforcement by the FBI and local law officials, and the resulting sharp reduction in crimes against traveling salespeople.

The JSA event also honored Supervisory Special Agent John Walker, head of the FBI’s Jewelry and Gem Program, for raising its effectiveness “to a level never seen before.”

JSA president John Kennedy said there were 179 criminal attacks on traveling salespeople in 2000, almost all by South American robbery gangs. That was down from 334 in 1999. Robberies of trunk and remount shows fell from 24 in 1999 to five last year. Kennedy attributed the decreases to more successful investigations, arrests, and prosecutions by the FBI and local enforcement agencies. “The jewelry industry has never seen such intense and varied action by the FBI on its behalf,” he said.

Examples in 2000 include an FBI/Los Angeles Police task force that arrested 64 South American gang members; FBI arrests in Chicago of a gang of jewelry thieves led by a former Chicago chief of detectives, which preyed on traveling salespeople; arrests within three hours in Atlanta of two South American suspects who forcibly robbed a traveling salesperson of $400,000 in jewelry; and FBI arrests of two employees of a national jewelry retailer who committed a string of burglaries at the retailer’s stores.

Kennedy noted that jewelry industry homicides also have decreased. In 1992, there was a high of 37; last year, there were nine. “One life lost is too many,” said Kennedy, “[but] this dramatic decline in homicides is at least partially due to the effectiveness” of JSA’s training, warning bulletins, and work with the FBI and police departments “from coast to coast.”

JSA Chairman Hugh G. Glenn presented JSA’s annual James B. White Award (named for JSA’s president from 1964 to 1993) to Agent Walker. He has improved the FBI’s database and analysis of jewelry crime, noted Kennedy, and “aggressively shared his information with local FBI field offices, encouraging them to investigate jewelry crimes and pursue jewelry gangs.” Walker, in turn, praised the close working relationship between the FBI and JSA and emphasized the Bureau’s commitment to pursuing crimes against the jewelry industry.-