TWO years since it launched, the jewellery trade’s anti-crime alert network, SaferGems, has been helping to forge stronger links between the UK’s 43 different police forces.
And the organisation, who also cater for fine art and antiques, have been instrumental in the resolution of at least 14 major crimes as well as helping to prevent countless others.
Now they have announced that the British Jewellers' Association have signed up as co-funding partners, helping to widen the network further. In addition, there are a number of chain multiples who have become members, and Christie's are associates.
Set up as a joint initiative between the National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG) and specialist insurer T.H. March to tackle the rising level of robberies, fraud and distraction thefts perpetrated on jewellers and precious metal dealers, the web-based information hub is modelled on an earlier initiative set up by the Cash and Valuables in Transit scheme.
SaferGems gathers information from across the UK on criminals and incidents and sends out email alerts on them to members. The alerts can include everything from rogues gallery pictures of suspects in action to information on criminals' modus operandi, and even the cars and vans they drive.
The service also provides details of suspicious behaviour.
Reports are processed along police guidelines so that forces across the country can use them immediately in ongoing investigations.
Information can be processed from anywhere in the UK and disseminated via the internet within a day. This is particularly important because gangs tend to avoid detection by hitting one end of the country one day and striking hundreds of miles away the next, so it could be Glasgow on Monday and Brighton on Tuesday.
All T.H. March clients automatically become members of SaferGems to receive alerts at no direct cost to themselves, while at least 50 per cent of all NAG members have also signed up.
Information can be submitted to the database by anyone, not just members.
Michael Hoare, chief executive of the NAG, explained how SaferGems was established early in 2009 after they became aware of a rapidly increasing incidence of attacks on members.
Initial research made it clear that cross-border communication between many of the country's police forces was not what it could have been, said Mr Hoare, with the result that investigation teams in one force would often miss links with ongoing investigations in others.
SaferGems has gone some way to improving these links, with reports by January 2010 on 118 forced burglaries, 314 robberies, 482 pilferage distraction crimes, 53 credit card frauds and more than 150 incidents of suspicious activity.
There has also been co-operation with European law enforcement agencies on at least two investigations that have led to arrests.
"We wanted to combat the rise in crime, and especially to reduce the attacks on jewellers travelling with stock," said T.H. March sales director Neil McFarlane.
"This is as much about crime prevention as catching the criminals."
SaferGems work closely with the Flying Squad and other members of the police and spend a lot of time reviewing procedures to make the system more effective.
"We talk to the different forces every day and hold round-table discussions to see what we can do next," revealed Mr Hoare.
And Mr McFarlane added: "As traditional robbery targets, such as banks, have become harder to attack, criminals have turned their attention to more vulnerable targets, such as jewellers in transit. Add to that the soaring prices in precious metals, and they become even more attractive targets."
The lack of regulation in the precious metals trade makes it easy to dispose of stolen goods, they also argued, with items being melted down within hours of being taken. With all this in mind, the SaferGems initiative could hardly have been more timely and its mentors are keen to roll it out to the industry as a whole.
More details at www.SaferGems.org.uk
By Ivan Macquisten