Jewelry heists spike as gold prices soar

August 24, 2012 6:52:07 PM PDT
There's been a recent rash of jewelry store robberies in the Bay Area, and the robbers are becoming bolder and more dangerous than ever.

In a brazen daylight robbery on Thursday, four masked men broke into a jewelry store. Armed and dangerous, the men smashed glass display cases and grabbed anything they could get their hands on.

The robbery happened Thursday at the H Bee Jewelry store in San Pablo. The robbers were caught on the store security camera. Police say they got away with more than $200,000 of jewelry.

Mike Hyung is the owner of H Bee Jewelry. "They told us to get down on the ground" and threatened to kill us if we moved, he recalled.

According to the Jewelers Security Alliance, which tracks jewelry store robberies nationwide, in the first six months of the year, 34 stores were hit in California. Last year, there were 44 and in the year before, 29 stores were hit.

The Bay Area has seen a rash of robberies this year. Early this month, Julianna's Fine Jewelry store was robbed at gunpoint at the upscale village mall in Corte Madera.

Also this month, three robbers struck Mac's Coins and Collectibles store in Sunnyvale. They tied up an employee and stole gold, coins and jewelry.

In May, four robbers struck the Gold N Treasures store in San Ramon. The store owner shot and killed one of them during the heist.

Jewelers blame the poor economy and rising gold prices for the spike in store robberies. They also cite the ease with which robbers can sell their stash.

Jeweler Georgie Gleim is a board member of Jewelers of America. "I think most of the people committing the robberies are hooked into a network so they've got easy ways to get rid of it," she said.

Most jewelry and gold have no serial numbers so they're easier to sell with minimal risk. The most prized items among robbers are high-end watches like Rolexes, which sell for $6,000 and up, diamonds, and of course, gold jewelry.

Gleim says stores should have high-resolution security cameras. Some hire guards. Hundreds belong to the Northern California Jewelry Security Network. When members notice something suspicious, they report it to the others in the group.

"If there's a bad credit card, if there's somebody who looks like they're casing a store, we can send out pictures and alert everybody so they can all watch out for that," Gleim said.


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