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Crime and punishment
Silatec security glass undergoes several tests. The number of blows needed to create an entry hole in the glass determines the resistance class – 30 to 50 blows constitutes the lowest, above 70 the highest class.
Silatec security glass undergoes several tests. The number of blows needed to create an entry hole in the glass determines the resistance class – 30 to 50 blows constitutes the lowest, above 70 the highest class.
Jewellers faced with a rise in on-premises crimes, many carried out in under a minute and by more violent means, look to best practices and smart protection products to create a more secure selling environment.
by Deborah Yonick
ctress Halle Berry is set to play an international jewel thief in the upcoming movie, Who Is Doris Payne? At nearly 80, Payne currently faces grand theft charges after taking the tags off a $1,300 Burberry coat and walking out of the store without paying, but her criminal career spans five decades. Her arrest comes after known heists and jail time for stealing a 5 ct diamond ring from a Neiman Marcus in Denver, an $8,500 ring in Nevada and a $31,500 ring in California; she was on parole when she nabbed the latter two.

Payne had little use for glasscutters, picks or guns. Her tools of choice have always been well-cut dresses, plain gold earrings, a silver tongue and a waiting taxi. Her goal was simple, she once told a reporter from the Associated Press: "I simply tried to cause the men to forget how many [rings] they would show me.” By the time a clerk counted up the rings, Payne was on her way to the airport!

However, Payne’s approach is not the norm. Jewellery and gem thefts are often committed with weapons, sometimes yielding serious physical injury or death, reports the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and they result in industry losses of over $100 million each year in the United States alone.

Criminal enterprises – most notably South American groups targeting travelling salespersons and African-American and Balkan gangs that mark retail stores for "smash-and-grab" armed robberies – are responsible for the increase in jewellery crime in the last two decades. All fence stolen goods worldwide, with Los Angeles, Houston, Miami and New York the top fencing cities in the U.S. market.

Lacking international statistics, information from Jewellers Security Alliance (JSA) in the United States and its European counterpart the International Jeweller Security (IJS) illustrates common security risks and how jewellers can better handle them.

Major Harry Winston Robbery
Location: Paris, France
Haul: $108 million
Status: At Large
One of the most brazen robberies in recent history was in December 2008 when four men stormed one of Paris’s most exclusive jewellery stores, Harry Winston. Disguised as women and armed with a .357 Magnum and hand grenades, the men entered the store at closing, smashing display cases and snatching a suitcase full of diamonds. Still at large, the police suspect the thieves are part of the Yugoslavian crime gang, the “Pink Panthers.” This criminal syndicate was also involved in jewellery robberies in Paris of $1.3 million in 2004 and $22 million in 2007.

Brazen Raid of Graff in London
Location: London, England
Haul: $63 million
Status: Caught
In August 2009, a group of four armed robbers raided Graff Diamonds in London taking 43 pieces valued at 40 million pounds, Britain’s biggest jewellery heist. In June of this year, Aman Kassaye was found guilty of kidnapping, conspiracy to rob and possessing a firearm after he forced a shop assistant to steal valuables during this raid. His three accomplices have already been sentenced. Graff London was also targeted in 2003 by reputed "Pink Panthers" in what was then the country’s most expensive jewellery heist at 23 million pounds, about $40 million.


In 2009, the total dollar losses from crimes against jewellery firms in the U.S. declined nearly 6 percent, from $103.5 million in 2008 to $97.7 million last year, while the number of crimes increased 3.5 percent from 1,505 to 1,557, according to JSA.

Among the most significant trends was a nearly 27 percent drop in off-premises attacks, primarily against travelling salespersons, from 187 in 2008 to 137 in 2009. John Kennedy, JSA president, cites two major reasons for the decline – greater enforcement by local police and the FBI, and a significant decrease in salespersons on the road due to the economy. But the number of on-premises robberies, primarily of retail jewellers, increased by more than 14 percent.

Nearly $73 million were lost in 2009 because of on-premises crimes, JSA reports, up from nearly $61 million in 2008. Moreover, incidents of theft, burglary and robbery are up in 2009 over 2008, at 1,420 in total compared to 1,318, with theft crimes encompassing 60 percent, burglary nearly 25 percent, and robbery over 17 percent.

Within each crime category, JSA cites 42 percent of thefts as "grab-and-runs", with sneak and distraction crimes at 25 percent. More than 65 percent of burglaries are three-minute jobs committed late at night by breaking in a glass front door or window. Nearly three-quarters of robberies are carried out with a gun, typically between 11 a.m. and noon and 5 and 6 p.m., with Tuesdays and Wednesdays the most active weekdays; Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston and San Francisco the most active cities; and California, Texas, Florida and New York the most active states.

From a European perspective, IJS director Martin Winckel shares statistics about jewellery crimes in Germany, noting that the numbers are similar to the other countries in Europe. In 2009, there were 226 reported burglaries. Reported thefts totalled 139, with the majority classified as shoplifting, and nearly a quarter each "grab-and-run" and showcase thefts.

“Percent differences are possible between the countries, but will be small because nearly all crimes against the business are the same, even the criminals/crime gangs are the same,” Winckel explains. “There are practically no borders in Europe anymore, so the bad guys travel faster between the countries than the police can do their paperwork.”

Developed in the early 1970s in Hagen, Germany, as a local service, with support from the federal alliance of gold- and silversmiths in North Rhine-Westphalia, IJS has grown into a crime prevention network with members from every sector of the trade spanning beyond Germany to other European countries.

IJS researches criminal offenses and generates information for police agencies, members, victims and support partners. Information is collected and analysed against IJS’s crime database, recorded and posted online. The network also advises on security tactics and risk management, providing a best practices manual for jewellery and watch firms.

Silatec security glass consists of one or more sheets of glass held together by one or more polycarbonate sheets.
Silatec security glass consists of one or more sheets of glass held together by one or more polycarbonate sheets.

To illustrate how criminals work, Winckel tells of a shoplifting case that IJS tracking brought to justice. Two women shopping on Sept. 8, 2008 at a Tiffany store in Frankfurt, Germany, switched the stone in a large brilliant ring, a loss of 210,000 euros. “After reviewing the pictures from this crime, I recognised one of the women immediately, Monique N., well-known as a shoplifter,” Winckel describes. “On that day, the women tried this trick at another jeweller in Wiesbaden, Germany, but with no success. Then on Nov. 11 a woman and a man made a switch at a Cartier store in Paris, a loss of 635,000 euros. When I got the information about this theft, I tried to get the pictures of the crime, as many things pointed to the woman from Frankfurt. Days later, with images in hand, I could identify her and her male accomplice.”

Winckel notes that in the following days he received information on three more crimes involving the same woman in England and Scotland, yielding losses of 310,000 euros. News coverage of her thefts spread, which ultimately helped to arrest her in February 2009 in France.


For each shop, says Winckel. “The main points similar to all shops are certified electronic alarm systems, shop windows of laminated polycarbonate security glass and a safe or vault, as well as a closed circuit TV using a Mega-Pixel IP-camera system with a digital recorder.”

Winckel describes: “One camera must look straight at the entrance door to take a passport photograph of each person entering the shop. The camera must be backlight capable and mounted not higher than 200 cm.”

The next steps depend on the individual risk, such as the quantity and value of the products in stock, brands offered and location of the shop.

Winckel advocates a high-end shop also has its showcases and the backs of shop windows protected with laminated polycarbonate security glass; all locks should be electronic (RFID) with a time delay for opening; security fog inside the shop; a man trap/sally port as an entrance door where one door or gate must be closed prior to the opening of the other; smaller shop windows, not floor to ceiling ones; steel roller shutters behind all shop windows and the entrance door; and panic buttons in all rooms.

Overnight, Winckel advises that nearly all products get stored in safes! “This significantly minimises the risk of burglaries and lowers insurance costs,” he says, suggesting the use of an LCD-TV with a good promotion video in the shop window overnight as a safe way to market jewellery after closing.

The objective: jewellers need security that shows robbers and burglars that it will take more than three minutes to get wanted merchandise.“ In fact, nowadays most of these crimes go down in less than one minute, making the time delay one of the most important tools in securing a jewellery store”, Winckel explains.

The fourth-quarter holiday season is when jewellers earn most of their annual revenues. It’s also when they face the greatest security risks. To minimise losses during the holiday selling season, loss prevention expert Jewelers Mutual, based in Neenah, Wisconsin, suggests these basic security tips:

  • Never open or close the store alone. One person should watch from a safe distance with a cell phone in hand in the event of an emergency.
  • Make eye contact with all customers who enter your store, greet them and note their appearance, watching for suspicious individuals.
  • Have at least two people on the sales floor at all times.
  • Wait on only one customer at a time, and show only one item at a time. If a second item is requested, show it on your own wrist or finger.
  • Never turn your back on customers or leave them alone with merchandise.
  • Never let customers behind the counter.
  • Never leave the showroom unattended.
  • Keep all display cases and show windows key locked during open business hours. Never keep keys in plain sight or on a hook or shelf.
  • Hire security, preferably an off-duty, armed police officer, to be on guard during business hours, as well as for opening and closing.
  • Check that your video surveillance system is working. A visible camera can deter crime and identify those who case your store or commit a crime.

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