As police cuts bite it is up to the industry to pull together.
It can be tough to talk about crime when it happens to you. Common feelings are shame, embarrassment and also the fear that if it gets into the public domain that you will be targeted by other thieves who will identify your shop as a soft target.
The bad news is that you are pretty likely to be targeted again whether you speak out or not. Statistically, according to police and insurance companies, businesses that become victims of crime are highly likely to be hit again.
The good news is that there is something you can do about it. By speaking out, you can help to catch the criminals responsible and stop them from targeting your shop or any other shop for a long time.
Two years ago insurance broker TH March and the National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG) joined forces to create a method of allowing the jewellery trade to warn each other about crimes and suspicious behaviour. What resulted from this collaboration was SaferGems.
SaferGems works by sending out emails to its subscriber base detailing crimes that have just taken place, as well as providing images of suspects and CCTV footage when available. SaferGems is available to join free of charge for TH March customers and British Jewellers’ Association and NAG members. However, you do not need to be a member of SaferGems to submit a report of a crime.
While keeping the jewellery industry informed about crime patterns is a vital tool, SaferGems is actually working to inform police as well, in the hope that collated information on suspected multiple offenders will help to gain convictions. It is a dream that has already been realised.
Budgets for policing have come under scrutiny of late, with a reported 16,000 police officers facing the chop. With fewer police officers comes less policing and with crime continuing at pace, this could be a big problem for jewellers. But the real problem, according to SaferGems, is not so much the dwindling police numbers but a lack of communication between regional police forces.
“[Former Aurum chairman] Jurek Piasecki wrote to me as they had had a dozen robberies in different police force areas and they were all being treated separately but he had spotted the same MO,” recalls NAG chief executive and SaferGems co-founder Michael Hoare. “As always, when you get a call from an NAG member, something has to be done, so we wrote to a local MP. It struck me that all these people knew these crimes had taken place but nobody was willing to do anything about it. Rather than writing again we decided to do something. We knew TH March were having the same thoughts so we pulled together to create SaferGems.”
But it’s not just a lack of resources and unwillingness to deal with crimes that cross county borders, it can also be a matter of rivalry between forces and an unwillingness to share information because of this.
SaferGems has worked hard to build relationships with individual police forces around the country, treating them separately and gaining their trust. Once a connection has been established the relationship works dually with the police feeding SaferGems information and vice versa. “It is a central gathering point for intelligence,” says Hoare.
While it would be understandable for police forces that cannot communicate across borders to perhaps feel resentment towards non-police professionals taking on such a task, SaferGems has apparently been very well received by police. Detective Sergeant John Fuller from Humberside Police is one of the initiatives fans. “The information and assistance given by SaferGems is invaluable,” he says.
Detective Sergeant Fuller has used SaferGems information on one of his cases this year and the information led to the arrest of two men [see case study above]. “Without the support of SaferGems it would have taken a great deal of time to identify these men and bring them to justice,” he adds.
TH March marketing director Neil McFarlane says that the jewellery industry is often targeted by repeat offenders who specialise in stealing from jewellery shops and who will travel the country to avoid being caught. “These guys could be in Newcastle one day and Brighton the next and that causes problems with different police forces,” he explains.
SaferGems works by collating the information in, for example, Newcastle and Brighton, identifying patterns and then passing this information on to the police, joining the dots for them, so that when one offender is caught for a single crime but has more than likely committed multiple offences then they can potentially be charged for them all.
The initiative has had small successes in its first two years – 14 arrests have been made as a direct result of SaferGems – but it is reliant on information flowing in from jewellers to help it give good, credible information to the police so that they in turn can secure convictions at court, and a lack of retailers giving up such information is something McFarlane and Hoare are struggling with. But a problem shared is a problem halved indeed, and hopefully as more retailers gain confidence in the SaferGems system, it will become a more powerful tool to help convict criminals and, more importantly, prevent crime.
Since January 2010 SaferGems has recorded…
- 118 enforced burglaries
- 314 robberies
- 482 deception, pilferage and distraction crimes
- 53 credit card fraud
- 132 suspicious activities
A CASE STUDY: CROSS-BORDER CRIMINALS
Earlier this year a robbery took place at a discount jewellery shop in Hull, during which one offender distracted the jeweller while the other stole jewellery to the value of £2,300. Humberside Police released images of the men wanted in connection with the crime to the SaferGems team, which recognised the suspects as also being wanted for similar crimes in Thames Valley, North Yorkshire, Tayside, Kent, Staffordshire and South Wales. This information, and images of the offenders at other crime scenes, were passed back to Humberside Police, which confirmed that a connection was likely.
The suspects were still at large, however, but shortly afterwards another offence fitting the same MO occurred at a jewellers within the Lothian and Borders Police area. This time the thieves – a 33-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy – were arrested by local police. They were both charged for the offence and appeared at Peebles Sheriffs Magistrates Court and were released on conditional bail that required them to sign bail each Wednesday in the West Midlands.
Details of this arrest were also passed to SaferGems. The organisation in turn passed the information on to Humberside Police, which then arrested the pair on separate charges when they answered bail in the West Midlands in connection with the Lothian and Borders robbery.
Enquiries with SaferGems resulted in the paperwork for further offences in South Wales and Nottinghamshire being passed to Humberside Police to carry out interviews.
On the October 27 both suspects were interviewed by Humberside Police and charged with shop thefts in Humberside, South Wales and Nottinghamshire. They appeared at Hull Magistrates Court on Friday 28 October 2011 pleading guilty to the offences in Hull and South Wales, but not guilty to the offence in Nottingham.
The connections made between the crimes that led to multiple arrests were a direct result of information passed through SaferGems.
This article was taken from the December issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the digital version of this issue, download PDFs and share it click here.