No Phone Calls, Please!

hschupak@cahners.com

On the outskirts of Reading, Pa., a road construction sign written in a childlike hand reads, ?Slow Down, My Daddy Works Here.? Farther along the road, another sign reads, ?Slow Down, My Mommy Works Here.?

We Pennsylvanians are so used to road construction that we won?t be surprised if asphalt is someday declared the official state mineral. But being used to it also means that we often drive far too fast through construction areas, forgetting how vulnerable road workers are. Their families and friends would be devastated by a phone call informing them that their loved one had been injured or killed by a careless motorist.

Another group that makes its living on the road has become equally vulnerable. The gangs of thieves who prey on traveling jewelry salespeople used to be content with distract-and-grab techniques to accomplish their crimes, but now they?re increasingly likely to use violent means to separate a salesperson from his or her goods.

Through the tireless efforts of the Jewelers? Security Alliance, which has worked with federal, state, and local legislators and law-enforcement agencies, the number of violent crimes committed against traveling jewelry salespeople has dropped significantly this year compared with last year?s figures. (See ?Security Coalition Reaches ?Critical Stage,? ? p. 106.)

As JSA president John Kennedy says, it?s a tremendous improvement, but it?s not good enough. While the fact that so far almost 50% fewer salespeople have become victims of these thugs is good news, the number of reps who have been hit is still 100% too many. Our industry?s tolerance for violence should be zero. As we work toward the goal of preventing violence in war-torn regions of Africa?by following a zero-tolerance policy regarding ?conflict diamonds??we should continually work to prevent violence against our colleagues who carry jewelry on the road in this country.

On June 19, the House Appropriations Committee submitted a report stating, ?The Committee is also aware of the FBI?s efforts through the Jewelry and Gem Program to establish multi-agency task forces to address the increased incidents of violent crimes against jewelry vendors and encourages the FBI to continue to devote appropriate resources to disrupting these criminal enterprises.?

Kennedy says the strong expression of House support is an excellent first step in JSA?s campaign to have additional monies appropriated to fight jewelry crime. In the next few weeks, the Senate Appropriations Committee will be considering the issue. JSA is optimistic that at least $2 million and 10 additional FBI agents will be authorized in the Senate bill and included in a bill passed by both houses.

You can help. Contact the chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees as well as your own senators and congressional representatives and add your voice to the campaign against jewelry violence on the road. Lobbying by industry associations and letters to Congress from individuals have driven the progress made thus far.

Write to Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) at 522 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510; (202) 224-3004, fax (202) 224-2354, e-mail: Stevens@stevens.senate.gov. Contact House Appropriations Committee chairman C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) at 2407 Rayburn Building, Washington, DC 20515; (202) 225-5961. Committee members are listed at www.house.gov/appropriations/members.htm. Information on representatives and senators can be found at www.house.gov and, www.senate.gov, respectively.

Traveling jewelry salespeople are not just colleagues, they are husbands and wives, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. Many are also friends of mine, and I don?t ever want to get a phone call telling me one of them has become a victim of a theft gang.

Won?t you please help? Our elected lawmakers need to know our concern about this issue is ongoing, and that we won?t rest until all our salespeople are safe on the road.

And next time you?re driving through road construction, please slow down!