Be prepared, trust your instincts and be on the look-out.
This year seems to have been a year of two halves for criminality in the jewellery industry. The smash-and-grab crimes that characterised 2010 have become less frequent as the year has rolled out, and instead thieves have got sneaky.
“I’ve not heard of any really major crimes in the past six months but there has been lots of low-level crime,” says CMJ chief executive Willie Hamilton. This opinion is backed up by TH March marketing executive Neil McFarlane, who says that his insurance company has noted a rise in low-level claims.
Instead, slight-of-hand techniques and cyber crimes – such as one scam that involves transferring the money for a piece of jewellery straight to the jewellers account so it looks like it clears but then cancelling the transaction once outside with the item – have been on the rise. Another very recent scam to note was a man calling himself Michael Levy who duped an Antwerp diamond dealer out of £32,000-worth of diamonds. He made him travel to London for the deal, having pretended to be a Hatton Garden jeweller, then had a co-conspirator fake a call from the dealer’s bank telling him the funds were clear before making off with the stones.
There will always be crime stories like this ready to hit the headlines but McFarlane adds that while the impression might be that crime has jumped up massively in the jewellery sector, while general crime statistics have dropped, this is not true. Analysing figures held by TH March he says there has been an incremental rise in this year, but not on the scale some might perhaps perceive it to be.
Regardless of this, jewellery retailers need to be on the look out as while crime has not dramatically rocketed, jewellery shops have proved to be a tempting target for those hoping to make a profit from crime. Not only has the base value of the goods gone up, the methods of disposal have become easier thanks to cash for gold services. Now any opportunistic thief has a quick and easy way to sell on gold, something that NAG chief executive Michael Hoare sees as a real problem. “You don’t even need a fence nowadays, all you need is a cash-for-gold envelope,” he says.
Carrying out the act of robbery is also becoming easier. With well-publicised policing budget cuts up to 16,000 police officers could be taken off the beat, which means forces will have less manpower to deal with crimes.
But it’s not all bad news. In the biggest crime story of this year – the summer riots during which jewellers all over England were ransacked – we witnessed a pulling together of communities to fight against these crimes, and this is an ethos that jewellers can tap into to fight crime in 2012. Local organisations or national groups, like SaferGems, have been formed to help jewellers pull together and assist the police in fighting crime.
As McFarlane says, there are two ways to approach crime: reactively or proactively. As an insurance man he will always want to work to prevent crimes to try and lessen the £7 million his company has paid out in claims, but the strategy is mutually beneficial.
To find out how you can best protect your business against crime going into 2012 you can read our special report in the December issue of Professional Jeweller magazine. But most importantly, trust your instincts when it comes to protecting your staff and store. As Mark Beale of Metropolitan Police’s Flying Squad says: “You know your shoppers best. If someone comes into the shop and asks see you’re most expensive piece of jewellery, they’re probably not going to buy it.”