With jewelry and high-end watch burglaries on the rise, law enforcement and retailers are having to take extra steps to identify and shut stolen goods out of the market.
Meet the Experts
Scott Guginsky, Vice President of Jewelers Security Alliance, and a retired Detective Sergeant of the NYPD, oversees the running of the non-profit trade association, providing information on crimes in the jewelry and watch trade to law enforcement officials and the trade, since 1883.
Lee Henderson is the Intelligence Officer at SaferGems, a crime prevention intelligence initiative hosted by the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), funded by the jewelry industry through T H March Insurance Brokers and the National Association of Jewellers (NAJ). SaferGems records details of crimes and suspicious activity against the trade, circulating CCTV images of offenders/suspects and details of new crime trends on ‘Alert’ documents.
Tom Pozsgay is the Watch Expert at WP Diamonds. Considered by many as a leading expert in the United States, Tom is responsible for consistently analyzing the ever-evolving pre-owned watch market and offering competitive prices to the clientele at WP Diamonds. A seasoned professional, Tom was previously the Vice President of Certified Pre-Owned Watches for Tourneau, where he was employed for over 27 years.
How many watches are reported stolen per year?
Lee Henderson: In 2014, we recorded a spike in the number & value of watches stolen with approximately £9.5 million stolen during mostly robbery/smash & grab raids. In 2015, we saw a significant reduction with approximately £4.8 million of watches stolen.
Are there trends regarding how luxury watches are stolen?
Scott Guginsky: High-end watches are a target. Smash and grabs reflect the trend. Hammers, or hammers (sledgehammers) and guns, are used to smash the cases. There have been a lot of arrests—especially on the coast of California. In 75% of cases there, arrests have been made. Groups in Detroit did smash and grabs for high-end watches, too.
Do you check serial numbers against databases, to ensure watches being turned into WP Diamonds are not lost/stolen?
Tom Pozsgay: Yes, we do verify the serial number against a database; however, I believe that the database is very limited. We purchase watches from around the world, and something stolen in Europe most probably would not show up on the database. Also, some brands do not give database access to those who aren’t buying watches to their database in order to verify that the watch was not stolen. We work with the authorities especially if something looks suspicious. We always check the serial number against the database we use, hold the merchandise for 15 days, and take the appropriate ID’s.
What percentage of watches do you find are stolen overseas and being resold through dealers in the UK/US? What is the method by which people are stealing and reselling?
Lee Henderson: It is difficult to say what percentage of watches are stolen overseas and being resold in the UK/US. However, UK jewelers and pawnbrokers are constantly being targeted by Foreign National Offenders (FNO’s), particularly from Eastern Europe (Romania/Lithuania/Estonia), who use budget airlines to fly into the UK and commit high value watch robberies. It is believed that the watches are then being sold to customers/dealers in Russia, China and the Middle East, where there is a big demand.
What processes are used when tracking these stolen watches?
Scott Guginsky: There is a vouchering process for jewelry and watches. High end watches have serial numbers. There is a procedure the NYPD has regarding cataloging them. NCIC is a tool law enforcement uses around the US, where watches can be looked up by serial number. Leads Online is another system that is used.
Are there any telltale signs to look out for when dealing with stolen watches?
Tom Pozsgay: When a watch comes in and the serial numbers have been buffed out, we refuse those watches. When the offer is too good to be true, it raises a red flag. When a client has a very expensive watch but no box or papers, that also raises a red flag.