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.