Neil McFarlane discusses latest crime stats at UK Jewellery Conference

The use of sophisticated tracking devices by crime gangs tailing jewellery agents travelling around the country is increasing, warned T.H. March managing director Neil McFarlane at the UK Jewellery Conference in Birmingham yesterday.

As one of yesterday’s speakers at The Company of Master Jewellers-run event, McFarlane discussed the latest crime stats for the UK jewellery industry, with stats taken from the SaferGems initiative, security experts and police forces across the UK.


He revealed how more than £5 million worth of watches and jewellery has been stolen in the past 12 months, with organised crime gangs, typically of Eastern European origin, behind many of the large-scale jewellery and watch robberies reported in the media.

McFarlane also focused on assaults on agents and individuals travelling to and from shops or business HQs with stock and samples. So far in 2014 no such assaults had been reported, until Monday October 6 when an agent was targeted. In 2013, seven attacks on agents were reported, with six linked to one man in the North West using tracking devices.

McFarlane discussed how sophisticated – and small – tracking devices placed on cars had become in recent years, with crime gangs now using devices driven by GPS, Bluetooth and motion-activated sensors. Many now measure only a few inches big.
He said: "Many of the tracking devices used today are hard for drivers to find, but it is also about being aware of cars that might be following you, varying your route to and from your headquarters and being ready to report anything you might be suspicious of."

The talk also focused on chip and pin crime, with McFarlane describing how card fraud has become the biggest threat to retail jewellers today, as sleight-of-hand crimes fall.

Retailers are advised to never let a customers type in more than four digits when entering pin codes using chip and pin machines, as they could be overriding the system with authorisation codes, and to also refuse to take any authorisation calls from banks, as banks do not call retailers to offer authorisation for large purchases.

A sweeping audience poll on the day asked whether the businesses present had made a claim on their insurance in the past 12 months, with 79% saying no and 21% saying yes.