Tuesday, October 24, 2006
From USATODAY.com: FBI and local police are teaming up to combat a little noted but highly lucrative crime: robberies by gangs that target traveling jewelry and precious gem sales representatives.
Jewelry and gem salespersons reported 117 such robberies nationwide in the first nine months of this year, putting the industry on track for its lowest number of annual attacks since about 1990, according to a report by the industry group Jewelers' Security Alliance (JSA).
However, ripping off sales reps, who typically travel by car and carry hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of goods in small pieces of rolling luggage, remains a highly lucrative crime. The average theft this year has netted about $224,000. By contrast, the average bank robbery netted about $4,220 in 2004, the FBI estimated.
"It's a crime that's below the radar, and doesn't get nearly the attention of say, bank robbery," says John Kennedy, president of the JSA. "But in the past 10 years or so, it's become a fact of life for an industry where it had pretty much been unknown."
After 1999, when sales reps endured a record 323 robberies and more than $76 million in losses, the FBI began to partner with local police task forces in New York City, Los Angeles, Houston, Miami and other jewel theft hot spots. Using stakeouts, stings and other methods, they've helped boost arrests and lower dollar losses each year since 2000. Figures kept by the Jewelers' Security Alliance show local, state and federal arrests increased 25%, from 456 in 2003 to 570 in 2004. Those included crimes against retailers as well as sales reps. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]