Jewelry Losses From Crime Nearly Doubled in 2019, Defying Long-Term Trend

By Claims Journal staff | December 10, 2020

The value of losses from crimes against jewelers jumped by 89.1% in 2019 even though the number of thefts, burglaries and robberies decreased slightly, according to a new report by the Jewelers’ Security Alliance.

The organization said it received reports of 1,438 crimes against jewelers in 2019, down from 1,441 in 2018. The value of items stolen, however, was $101 million in 2019, up from $53.4 million the prior year. That increase defies a two-decade long trend of steady decreases in losses from crime.

The alliance said an increase in attacks on safes was part of the reason for last year’s surge, in addition to an increase in the value of items stolen. The organization said 44 safe attacks were reported in 2019, up from 13 in 2018. The average loss from safe burglaries was $491,000, up from $221,000 in the prior year.

The report says in 2019 there were seven safe attack burglaries in which the loss amount exceeded $1 million. In 2018 there was only one safe attack with a $1 million loss.

“Highly mobile professional burglary crews contributed to the rise in sophisticated burglaries,” the report says.

“On-premises” crimes at jewelry retail stores, manufacturers and wholesalers accounted for the vast majority of 2019 losses: $86.5 million compared to $46.2 million in on-premises losses reported in 2018 and $54 million in 2017.

Burglaries accounted for $40.5 million of the 2019 losses, up from $11.6 million the prior year. The alliance collected separate statistics for “three-minute burglaries,” so called because that is typically the amount of time it takes for a criminal to smash a glass front door or window and display cases and make off with merchandise.

There were 148 three-minute burglaries in 2019, compared to 134 in the prior year. The average loss was $27,000, up from $21,000 in 2018.

Robberies — meaning the use of force or fear to take property — accounted for $34.3 million in 2019 losses, up from $22 million in 2018. Thefts accounted for $11.7 million in losses, down from $12.6 million.

The vast majority of thefts reported to the alliance were of the “grab-and-run variety.” Losses from those thefts were relatively light, averaging $10,412. But the report notes that one grab-and-run theft in Washington state made off with $183,000 in merchandise.

Losses from off-premises crimes increased dramatically in 2019. The alliance said crimes that took place away from the base of business operations, such as from couriers, private homes, vehicles or trade shows, caused $14.5 million in losses, up from $7.2 million in the prior year.

The alliance said losses from off-premises crime has been steadily declining. There were 46 such crimes in 2019. By comparison, the US diamond, jewelry and watch industry experienced 323 off-premises losses in 1999.

“Important contributing factors regarding this reduction are the dedicated interest by law enforcement, particularly the FBI in cooperation with local law enforcement agencies; the greatly reduced number of traveling jewelry salespeople on the road due to the changing methods of jewelry distribution and sales; and greater education and information sharing regarding suspects and criminal gangs by jewelry firms and police,” the report says.

In fact, the amount of losses caused by crimes against jewelers has generally declined over the past two decades, despite the uptick in 2019.

The alliance said total losses, stated in 2019 values, was $203 million in 1998 and $208 million in 1999. Losses remained less than $100 million through 2009 and dropped to $94.23 million in 2010. The $54 million in losses reported in 2018 was the lowest amount in any of the past 21 years.

Another positive note: No jewelry personnel were killed in 2019, the first time ever that a year went by with no homicides, the alliance said. The report says there have been 124 deaths of jewelry personnel since 1996.

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