Flash Robs, Social Media and Jewellery Store Security

Good security is expensive.  Is it worth it?  Social media is now enabling large groups of criminals to attack one location at one specific time – a “Flash Rob”.  How can this be prevented?

Jewelry Theft

Flash Mobs and Jewellery Store Thefts

Flash mobs can be harmless and humorous, and are usually done to provide some kind of entertainment to the public.  This flash mob in a food court has been seen over 34 million times on YouTube.

Flash mobs and flash robs are both typically organized by mass text messages or social media outlets, but most participants in flash mobs are strangers.  Multiple offender crimes usually involve groups of youths who already know each other.

Jewelry Store Thefts

Often fall into one of these categories:

  • Smash-and-grabs: Thieves cut the phone lines to disable the alarm, then force a vehicle inside. The alarm companies would register the phone line tampering only as a line that is out of service, giving them time to get away before anyone came to investigate.
  • Gate-cutting: There is a group of jewelry thieves who specialize in cutting store security gates, smashing the windows, grabbing jewelry and getting out. The men hit when lighting conditions are low, usually before or after normal business hours, in order to make video identification more difficult. They typically enter and exit through fire exits at mall locations.
  • Distraction Techniques: When a salesperson shows a valuable piece, the thief, usually in conjunction with a partner, distracts the employee and replaces the legitimate jewellery with a fake, then leaves with the real jewellery.
  • Return thefts: The thief buys a piece of fine jewelry, then comes back the next day to return the piece for a refund. What they’re giving the store is not the same merchandise they purchased, what they return is a worthless imitation.
  • Borrowing not buying jewellery: A customer comes in one day, makes a purchase, and returns the item the following day.  In the case of jewelry, they bring back the same item they bought, but they have worn the jewellery for a special occasion and the store does not make any profit.

How to Prevent a Jewelry Heist

Some jewellery store owners have resorted to keeping a guuun. Sometimes alarm systems and cameras are not enough.  There are high-tech solutions such as putting a large video monitor in the store window so passersby can clearly see what is going on inside the store. Video from cameras inside the store can be monitored offsite. Audio recording is triggered if someone breaks into the store and the police are automatically dispatched. Live video and audio can be streamed to police dispatch centres and also to well equipped police vehicles.  Letting only a few people into the jewellery store at one time would certainly prevent a flash rob situation.  The following video by Sonitrol explains their high-tech solutions for jewellery stores.

Jewelers Security Alliance based in New York City has been fighting jewellery crime in the United States since 1883.  On their website you can see videos and descriptions of crimes committed.  You can view JSA’s most wanted criminals and report a jewellery crime yourself.

Robbery at Graff in London – Robbers Caught – Stolen Items Not Recovered

There is something about a jewellery heist that fascinates people.  Many movies have been made about the thief that got away. On August 6th, 2009 the Graff store on Bond Street was robbed of $65 million in jewellery. The thieves were caught on a cell phone camera by someone on the street.

The robbers have been caught, but the jewellery has not been recovered!

Social Media and Crime

Social Media maybe responsible for Flash Robs, but social media is also helping catch criminals.  This facebook page created by Toronto Crime Stoppers has the photos and descriptions of  jewellery store robbery suspects.


Your Input (Join our poll or scroll down and leave a comment)

Royal Ontario Museum ROM

Ammolite Specimens at the ROM Photo by J. McKercher

I plan to introduce different gemstones alphabetically.  I will start with “A” (Ammolite) and see where it leads me.  Leave a comment and let me know if you have a favourite gemstone that starts with the letter “H”.  Take the poll!  Can you name a reference to a gemstone in a song, movie or book?

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About Jen McKercher

Jennifer McKercher teaches gemmology at the Canadian Gemmological Association. A passion for gemstones drives Jen to learn as much as she can about the wonders of gemstones and how they enhance our lives.

Posted on August 17, 2011, in Gemmology, Trivia and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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