A Gem of a Theft: Fighting Jewelry Store Robberies

From distraction thefts to recent “gate-cutting” incidents, a look at the newest tactics to stand guard against

From Boston to Baltimore

A man who was recently released from prison is alleged to have pulled a distraction theft at the Filene’s Basement in Boston. According to loss prevention and police sources, he came by the store one day to check out the jewelry counter, then returned the following day with a friend. While the accomplice distracted the salesperson, the thief reached into the open jewelry case and quickly took a $16,000 necklace.

The store’s camera system captured photos of the man entering the store and at the jewelry counter with his accomplice. Loss prevention personnel distributed the photos to other stores as well as to law enforcement. Local police identified the suspect; however, he had already moved on to New York, where he allegedly stole another $45,000 in jewelry in the Albany area.

The itinerant thief then moved down the coast, where he is believed to have targeted the Northeastern Fine Jewelry Shop outside Baltimore. The suspect allegedly entered the store to look at diamond rings, grabbed the jewelry and fled in a waiting car, which also turned out to be stolen.

Lt. Curtis Cox of the Guilderland (Md.) Police Dept. said that a link was discovered between the Boston and Baltimore thefts because of Filene’s Basement’s quick work.

“The Filene’s Basement in Boston passed the information about the theft to the security director of the store in Guilderland,” he said. “From there, we were able to link the suspect to the Northeastern Fine Jewelry Shop theft.”

The suspect is being held by police in Boston. The Guilderland police are waiting for their investigation to be finalized before arresting the man, whose name is being withheld.

East Coast Hot Spots

The Baltimore area experienced other jewelry thefts as well this holiday season. A team of two men was allegedly responsible for the robbery of J.M. Jewelers in Bel Air. They have also been charged, along with a third accomplice, with the robbery of Bromwell Jewelers in Lutherville, Md.

Corey Reuben Cooper and Brian O’Neal Hodge, both of Maryland, are charged with taking over three-quarters of a million dollars of jewelry and gems from J.M. Jewelers. They allegedly locked the store owner and a FedEx delivery person into the bathroom while committing the robbery. Neither the owner nor the delivery person was reported to have been seriously injured.

The two men, along with alleged accomplice Rodnell Shirley James, have been charged with the Bromwell Jewelers robbery as well.

According to PIO Robert B. Thomas of the Harford Co. (Md.) Sheriff’s Office, the suspects used handguns during the commission of these robberies. They then subsequently attempted to sell some of the jewelry at Baltimore pawnshops.

“We’ve recovered about $150,000 worth from the J.M. robbery,” said Thomas. “But we’re still looking for half a million dollars in missing jewelry.”

‘The Gate Cutters Crew’

The Baltimore area is not the only place plagued by jewelry thefts lately. Stores ranging from Zales Jewelry in Arnot Mall in the Elmira area of Upstate New York to Fink’s Jewelers in the Raleigh, N.C. area have also been victimized by an organized retail crime ring nicknamed the “Gate Cutters Jewelry Crew” because of the way the thieves enter the stores. This ring is believed to be comprised of Hispanic and/or African-American males who work in teams of four or five, with one person acting as a lookout.

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. They enter the stores by cutting through roll-down security gates, and they then pry open display cases and remove items that are not secured in a safe. The thieves spend very little time inside the stores, and they typically do not attempt to break into the safes.