In the last 12 months the UK jewellery industry has witnessed a spike in smash and grab attacks.
From daylight robberies, to break-ins during the dead of night, jewellers have been falling victim to criminal activity up and down the country.
Most recently luxury independent jeweller Michael Spiers was disrupted by a smash and grab at its Truro boutique. Luckily, no-one was harmed, and five men have now been charged for the attack, but the shop’s staff were still put in a vulnerable position. Aside from jewellers holding large ticket items, why has the industry been experiencing an increasing in raids, even in the most unexpected locations?
“Our observations would be that there have been a number of political events in the last 18 months that have significantly contributed to the destabilising of some quarters of society and with jewellers seemingly a fairly soft target with low risks and high rewards (if they get away with it) it makes them ‘easy pickings’ for criminals,” shares Warrior Doors managing director, Brett Barratt, adding: “When you add these factors to the severe cutbacks in the police service and ever-growing strain on the judicial system it’s easy to see how criminals can laugh in the face of the law.”
Owner of Fox Surveillance and Security Solutions Ltd, Joel Adlington, echoes that police cuts and the ever-decreasing wages in the private security sector, has coincided with a sharp rise in smash and grabs.
Adlington says: “Although an unpopular subject amongst politicians and company CEOs there is a direct reflection of quality compared to investment in any sector and this includes security. Police resources have been cut to critically low levels during the government’s austerity measures which has resulted in a lack of resources and low morale amongst officers.
“Private security companies meanwhile have been competing directly against each other for so long, with their clients unwilling to outlay sufficient funds on security due to their own cutbacks, and contracts being awarded to the lowest bidder rather than the most effective solution. This has seen a direct impact on security staff wages who are often paid small wages and expected to work 12hr shifts on their feet. The result of this is that the security staff are often not the required standard for a high-end jeweller and even when they are it is impossible for them to maintain the correct levels of vigilance and alertness working such long shifts.”
The most common type of smash and grab jewellers have been witnessed are those where mopeds are deployed. Last year a group of moped riders carried out a broad-daylight jewellery heist with sledge hammers at Boodles’ London flagship, while six robbers fled Mappin & Webb’s Regent Street boutique on a single moped in October.
Met figures show that moped related crime has risen seven-fold in two years from 1,053 in 2014 to 7,668 in 2016. This is expected to rise again when the figures for 2017 become available.
Adlington explains: “The risk of injuring criminals escaping on mopeds through London’s tight and busy streets actively discourages officers from giving chase for fear of repercussions. This is a problem which is being addressed recently by the Metropolitan police who have invested in four specialist BMW scrambler motorcycles, mobile stinger devices and DNA spray to help combat the moped crime epidemic.”