By Rob Bates
More crimes occurred at mall-based jewelers in 2014 than at any other type of store, as the industry confronted a troubling increase in the number of smash-and-grab robberies, according to the Jewelers’ Security Alliance’s annual tally of industry-related crime.
Overall, the number of crimes against the industry fell to 1,381, from 1,414 the prior year. Total dollar losses rose 17 percent to $77.8 million, from $66.5 million in 2013.
“You will have blips up and down, but the long-term trend for crime is down,” says John Kennedy, president of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance. “The amount of violence is down. Last year, there were three homicides. In past years, we have had 15 and as many as over 50.”
The biggest chunk of last year’s crimes took place at mall jewelers, which saw 515 incidents, followed by standalone stores (292), strip centers (248), and downtown stores (127), with a grab bag of locales accounting for the rest.
“People think you are much safer in a mall because of the security,” Kennedy says. “But that doesn’t fly. These guys aren’t afraid of malls.”
Smash-and-grab robberies—which involve breaking open a locked case, generally with sledge-hammers—remain a growing problem, with the number soaring 77 percent last year to 110, from 62 the prior year. (See tips to avoid them below.)
That increase goes along with a more reassuring statistic: Last year, guns were displayed in only 36.5 percent of robberies, down from 65 percent in 2013.
That’s because of stricter gun laws, Kennedy says.
“If you are prosecuted federally for using a gun in the commission of a crime, the penalties are much higher,” he says.
And while gangs face less risk with smash-and-grabs, those crimes should not be considered nonviolent, Kennedy says.
“A lot of the times there is glass flying all over the place,” Kennedy says. “There are instances where people are pushed down when there’s fleeing. A lot of times these guys have guns. There have been instances of shots fired, sometimes by the jeweler or the security guard. So there is potential for serious harm.”
In general, law enforcement has become more involved in stopping jewelry criminals, with arrests soaring to 694 last year, an impressive 64.5 percent increase.
Information sharing among jewelers has also helped tremendously, Kennedy adds.
Grab-and-run thefts declined to 337 from 476 the prior year; three-minute burglaries dropped to 157 from 233.