June 23--Jewelry and precious metal thieves have targeted jewelry stores less while the overall value of national theft losses has increased, a trend that concerns law enforcement, according to national data and interviews.
National jewelry and precious metals thefts rose 51 percent between 2005-10 to $1.56 billion, according to FBI statistics. In the same period, the Jewelers' Security Alliance reported jewelers' losses dropped 54.1 percent to $83.3 million.
Thefts from jewelry stores have consistently been a small percentage of overall jewelry crimes, and they dropped to 5.3 percent in 2010, the last year full statistics were available. In 2010, jewelry and precious metal thefts accounted for 11.7 percent of $13.2 billion in stolen property nationally, according to the FBI. That was an increase from 7.8 percent of total property thefts in 2005.
Jewelers have increased security while their insurance companies have asked for more precautions against thefts, said Adriana Sfalcin, executive director of the Mid-America Jewelers Association. Many insurance providers require jewelers to lock up as much as 80 percent of their merchandise each night in store vaults.
"That's the cost of doing business these days," said Sfalcin, whose organization is based in Columbus. "The insurance companies want to prevent the smash-and-grab jobs, where people are breaking into your store."
"Once they find out there's not as much there to take, they'll learn not to go there," Sfalcin said.
Individual and chain jewelers were hesitant to comment on issues of security or thefts, but Sfalcin said more time and space in industry publications and trade shows have been devoted to security in recent years.
Authorities said they see many instances such as the reported June 7 theft of $34,000 in diamonds and cash from two diamond brokers from New York outside the Courtyard by Marriott on Edwin C. Moses Boulevard. Suspects can follow dealers or brokers they know have been trading in jewelry or valuables, officials said.
The Jewelers' Security Alliance, which tracks jewelry store thefts, reported that amounts of losses can be affected by gold and diamond prices, which have recently risen dramatically. Arrests increased from 538 in 2010 to 657 in 2011, which "is significant and an indication of continued local and Federal law enforcement interest in jewelry industry crime," the JSA wrote in its annual report.
Of Ohio's biggest cities, Dayton saw the only drop in jewelry and precious metals thefts between 2007 and 2011, from 481 to 471, according to Ohio Department of Public Safety statistics. Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus all recorded increases in jewelry and precious metals thefts in the period (information for Toledo and other Ohio cities is incomplete).
The FBI has said its focus remains on organized crime syndicates that target jewelry because of its high value. As an example of such crimes, the FBI highlights on its website a 2010 Columbus incident during which a jewelry salesman attending a trade show and sitting in his car in a restaurant parking lot was attacked for two suitcases containing $3.7 million worth of gems.
Recognizing the need for more information on jewelry, law enforcement officials throughout the country have traveled to the Gemological Institute of America for a two-week course on gems and precious metals. The course is meant to help officers both recognize the difference between fakes and authentic jewelry and communicate while undercover with such syndicates.
"The trade is very concerned, especially about organized gangs that target jewelers," said Andy Lucas of the GIA, who teaches in the law enforcement courses. "The stores are out there and very public, and (officers) are paying attention as much as ever."
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