High-end jewelry equals high-risk
High-end jewelry and precious gems remains high on the target list of organized crime.
Jewel thieves typically have excellent intelligence gathering techniques that include overt and covert surveillance, impersonations, and ruses. They appear to have much success at breaching both operational and communications protective measures, mostly against traveling jewelry vendors or Trunk Shows, as is the industry moniker. Their modus operandi usually entails swift and violent means that involve two or more vehicles and between six to eight heavily armed individuals, using paramilitary techniques to disarm existing protection, including deadly force without hesitation, to liberate all merchandise and be gone in under two minutes, depending upon the operation. In days gone by, a more subtle approach such as disabling a vendors automobile or distracting them was commonplace, but today’s new breed of jewel thieves are more than willing to use explosive violence first.
Recent statistics, according to the Jewelers’ Security Alliance (JSA), show there have been 160 off-premises crimes against traveling jewelry personnel since the beginning of 1999, with losses totaling $41 million. This is up over 50 percent compared to the first six months of 1998. Crimes against trunk show personnel make up 24 percent of the dollar losses of off-premises crimes since January 1, 1999. Trunk and remount shows are attractive targets for thieves for a variety of reasons: The events often include high- value merchandise, they are publicly advertised, and the jewelry goods are hand-carried from one store to the next.
The growing use of armed escorts has not deterred these criminals. There are many incidents in which armed escorts have been overpowered and disarmed, and JSA believes it is just a matter of time before more tragedy strikes, resorting to more loss of human life.
Recent losses include:
In February 1999, five armed suspects robbed a Monterey (California) trunk show sales agent at gun point as he arrived at the front door of a retail jewelry store where the show had been publicly advertised. The salesman was forced to the ground and a gun held to his head while he was searched and robbed. Reported loss was $1,000,000.00.
In Ogden (Utah), a traveling salesperson was unloading his vehicle in connection with an advertised trunk show at a retail store. An off-duty police officer, hired as an armed escort, saw several men approaching them. Before he could react, he was knocked down by an automobile and attacked by several men as he lay on the ground. Six men in two vehicles fled with the merchandise as the off-duty officer managed to fire several shots at them.
In Palm Desert (California) an armed escort — a retired police officer — was escorting a salesman home after a day of cold calls in L.A. when he spotted a car following them. The escort took evasive action, presuming to shake their tail, only to be attacked in front of the salesman’s home by two armed robbers who appeared from behind the shrubbery. In the ensuing shoot-out, 18 rounds were exchanged. The salesman managed to run into his house, and hid in the bathroom with his wife and two children. The escort shot two robbers, who were carried from the scene by five male and two female accomplices.
As usual, the record is clear: Spotting the criminals before they can act is the key to loss prevention and injury prevention. Just being a police officer in not enough for an armed escort. The Jeweler’s Security Alliance suggests that all escorts should be former or active members of a professional law enforcement agency who have an in-depth knowledge of jewelry industry.
Escorts can be armed, but sheer firepower shouldn’t be the only consideration. Escorts should be hired for their experience, knowledge, and ability to spot trouble before it happens. Ideally, there should be at least two escorts, one driving the salesman, and the other in a pursuit vehicle. Additionally, the jeweler/salesperson needs to establish a rapport and game plan with protective personnel in case of an attempted robbery. Keep adequate insurance at all times and consider using armored bonded commercial couriers when possible.
Finally, as with all protective services, the goal is to prevent a robbery before it occurs: Spot the criminal, take appropriate action, and get out of harm’s way.