Dollar Losses From Jewelry Crime Hit 13-Year High
Losses totaled nearly $130 million while the number of crimes reached a record level, JSA’s annual report shows.
A total of 169 smash-and-grab robberies were reported to JSA in 2022, nearly double the number the organization recorded in 2021.
A total of 984 grab-and-run thefts, up from 842 the previous year, including one in Colorado that added up to a $725,000 loss.
There were also 28 safe attacks, compared with 17 in 2021.
All told, JSA recorded 2,211 crimes committed against U.S. jewelry firms in 2022, a record number for the 140-year-old organization, as noted at the JSA’s annual luncheon earlier this year, and a 31 percent increase over 2021.
Dollar losses also soared to an inflation-adjusted $129.4 million, an astounding 85 percent year-over-year increase and the highest total since 2009, when losses reached $132.6 million.
In an interview with National Jeweler Tuesday, JSA President John J. Kennedy said while there are no firm answers as to why crime rates fluctuate, for the jewelry industry, 2022 could signal a trend reversal.
“The losses have been on a general decline since the early ‘90s. Maybe we hit bottom,” he said. “It wasn’t going to go down forever; maybe it’s going to go up again.
“We may have entered a period where [losses] are on the rise and not on the fall.”
He also pointed out that while the number of overall crimes hit a high in 2022, the number of homicides and other violent crimes committed against jewelers, traveling jewelry salespeople, etc., are still well below the levels they were decades ago.
2022 Rise, Explained
Kennedy said myriad factors contributed to the increase in the number of jewelry crimes last year.
The further relaxing of restrictions on international travel in 2022 allowed criminal gangs from countries including Colombia, Chile and Romania to enter the country again, gangs whose members target trade shows, and commit burglaries and distraction thefts, he said.
In some jurisdictions, the increase in property crimes has been attributed to bail reform laws, though there is debate about how closely the two are linked.
In addition, Kennedy said there is a “tremendous sense of lawlessness” in the U.S. today that stems in part from having a country in which there is a lot of anger, disagreements and violence in the air.
“It’s part of the atmosphere, it’s part of the fabric of what’s going on, and it causes an increase in lawlessness,” he said.
The sharp increase in dollar losses is, in part, due to the increase in the number of crimes, though it also has to do with which types of crimes are committed more frequently in a given year.
Kennedy said last year, there were more off-premises incidences (65 cases in 2022 vs. 34 in 2021), which typically result in higher losses ($19 million total vs. $13.1 million in 2021).
There also were more robberies (260 in 2022 vs. 189 in 2021) and burglaries (484 vs. 311), both of which tend to result in bigger losses as well. (Robbery is defined as the taking of property from a person by the use of force and/or fear, while burglary involves entering a premises with intent to commit a crime.)
Robbery dollar losses more than tripled year-over-year, $46.5 million in 2022 compared with $12.8 million in 2021, while burglary dollar losses rose to $42.7 million from $33.1 million, a 29 percent increase.
Crime Trends of Note
Among the statistics in the 2022 crime report that stick out to Kennedy are smash-and-grab robberies and the “dramatic” increase in the number of crimes committed at jewelry trade shows.
Smash-and-grab robberies are frightening, often result in large losses, and can deter people from coming out to stores to shop, potentially resulting in a loss of business for jewelers.
The number of smash-and-grab robberies nearly doubled last year, with 169 reported to JSA compared with 85 in 2021.
The number of these robberies in which one or more of the perpetrators had a gun tripled, 33 in 2022 compared with 11 in 2021, though Kennedy noted the perpetrators do not often use their guns.
There also were more arrests of smash-and-grab robbery suspects last year, 76 vs. 46 in 2021.
The number of robberies, burglaries and thefts at trade shows, meanwhile, rose to 20 compared with just two reported to JSA in 2021.
The increase is due in part to shows being more robust than they were in 2021, when many events still were scaled down due to COVID, and it led to increased security at the Las Vegas shows this year.
Trade shows were the most common setting for off-premises attacks against jewelers last year, accounting for 31 percent of all off-premises crimes, JSA statistics show. The average dollar loss from these incidences was $243,000.
Two members of the jewelry industry were killed on the job in 2022, compared with one in 2021 and two in 2020.
Arasb Shoughi, 60, was beaten during a robbery at his Queens, New York, store in late March 2022. He died in the hospital three weeks later.
In November, a jewelry store security guard, later publicly identified by family as 57-year-old Norman Thomas, was shot and killed while on the job in the River Oaks Mall in Calumet City, Illinois.
The Best Advice
Kennedy said trying to predict whether crime will go up or down in the future is, “like predicting the stock market. It’s very difficult to do.”
While he can’t reliably prognosticate on jewelry crime in 2023, he did note that so far this year, crimes against jewelers still are occurring regularly but not with quite as much frequency as they did in 2022.
He also cannot give a blanket crime prevention recommendation, as each type of crime has its own security protocols that need to be followed in order to prevent it or mitigate losses.
Kennedy, however, did recommend jewelers have regular staff meetings, either weekly or bi-weekly, in the morning before the store opens.
They can focus on one crime a week, discussing what to do in the event of a smash-and-grab robbery or how to prevent distraction thefts, for examples.
He also pointed to the recent online training program JSA launched in conjunction with Jewelers Mutual Group and UL Solutions.
The 16-module program, which Kennedy said takes four to five hours to complete, is free and open to anyone in the industry. It can be accessed via Jewelers Mutual’s website.
The full 2022 Annual Crime Report from JSA is available to download on the organization’s website.
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