Conn. Jewelers Plan Robbery Alert System

February 22, 2005

Reacting to recent robberies and the killing of a Fairfield couple, a statewide group serving Connecticut jewelry stores is working on a system to better inform shop owners of potential trouble.

The Connecticut Jewelers Association wants to set up an e-mail alert system that would notify jewelry store owners about suspicious customers, people writing bad checks, shoplifters and other problems.

“We have to work together to protect one another,” said Robert LaPerla, president of the association and owner of LaPerla Fine Jewelry in West Hartford.

“Security has always been a constant issue,” he told the Connecticut Post.

The association, which represents more than 200 stores, hopes to have a system up and running within the next several weeks.

Meanwhile, police in Fairfield, where jewelry shop owners Timothy and Kimberly Donnelly were shot to death in a robbery Feb. 2, are setting up a closed door meeting with town jewelers within the next several days. The topic will be creating a real-time notification system to warn of potential dangers in the tri-state area.

Eight days after the Donnellys were killed, men with sledgehammers robbed Lenox Jewelers in Fairfield, stealing merchandise but not hurting anyone. There wasn’t much anyone could have done to stop the robbers, said Michael Halpy, general manager of Lenox Jewelers. He said his store hasn’t had any security problems.

There have been three robberies so far this year in Fairfield. Police said there were 13 reported robberies in 2004 and 20 in 2003.

“This has been a very unusual first quarter,” police Lt. Chris Lyddy said Friday of the three robberies. “We’re trying hard not to draw too many conclusions.”

LaPerla didn’t have any numbers for jewelry store robberies in the state.

“I don’t think it happens as much as you think,” he said, “but once is too much, as proven with the Donnellys.”

An ex-convict and his girlfriend have been charged in the Donnelly killings as well as other jewelry store robberies and the slaying of Long Island jeweler Thomas Renison on Dec. 21.

The suspects, Christopher DiMeo and Nicole Pearce, both 23, will be tried in New York first, then face the Connecticut charges. They are being held without bail in New York.

LaPerla said shoplifting and thefts by employees are more common than robberies.

Lyddy is recommending that store owners maintain a heightened state of awareness, especially around closing time, and watch out for customers improperly dressed for the season.

“The jewelry business is a happy business, (but) you have to know your customers,” said David Hochberg of Hochberg Jewelers in Trumbull. “You have to judge who’s coming through the door. The most innocent-looking can be the most volatile.”

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