Jewellery shop robberies: significant decrease in 5 years time

Between 2011 and 2016, the number of jewellery shop robberies in Belgium and the Netherlands fell from 87 to 12. This strong decline is the result of the sector's extensive targeted prevention efforts. However, caution is advised: criminal gangs are using ever more innovative methods and are now focusing on new targets.

Jewellery shop robberies: significant decrease in 5 years time

Belgium does not have any official crime rates for the jewellery sector available, but Vanbreda Risk & Benefits conducted a survey based on the figures of insurer HDI Gerling and its own claim statistics. Dutch market leader HDI Gerling holds more than 70% of the market and Vanbreda has about one hundred jewellers in its portfolio in Belgium.

The study with well-defined samples showed that the number of robberies of jewellers in Belgium and the Netherlands is in free fall:

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Nick Van den Broeck, jeweller insurance expert at Vanbreda Risk & Benefits: “The number of robberies peaked in 2011, when 87 jewellers fell victim to this crime phenomenon. Encouraged by the insurance sector, the jewellers made remarkable prevention efforts in recent years and the number of robberies has taken a sharp fall. In 2016, 12 jewellers experienced a robbery.”

This falling trend can almost entirely be explained by the range of prevention efforts by the jewellers. “One major prevention measure is a locked shop door that will only be opened after customers ring the bell. Jewellers resisted this measure for a long time, as they feared a locked door would turn out to be a commercial barrier. This has proven to be untrue: it puts customers more at ease and having to ring the bell does not deter them.”

Innovative gangs are looking for new targets

Although the falling number of robberies is good news for the jewellery sector, caution is advised. First, because the gangs are using a lot more innovative methods.

Nick Van den Broeck: “Gangs are adjusting to the new prevention techniques. The best example of this is a gang that countered a jeweller’s security fog machine, which is used to disorient criminals during a robbery, simply by clearing all the fog with a vacuum cleaner. This allowed them to go about their business in the doorway undeterred.”

The second reason why caution is advised is that criminals are now focusing on new targets.

Van den Broeck: “We have seen various robberies of wholesale warehouses and courier companies in recent months. We have also noticed a sharp increase in the number of cyber incidents, in which companies are required to pay ransom in exchange for a digital key to unlock their computers.”

Also sharp fall in ram raids

Finally, the Vanbreda survey shows that the number of ram raids has also decreased significantly in the past fifteen years.

The number of traditional burglaries has declined in the jewellery sector since the 1990s, when insurers started to impose stricter electronic and architectural security requirements.

Nick Van den Broeck: “Criminals started looking for new techniques, such as ram raids. This method was at its absolute peak in 2002–2003, when we recorded almost 200 ram raids in Belgium and the Netherlands on an annual basis. This trend also waned, partly because more and more jewellers installed anti ram raid bollards. The phenomenon still exists, but is limited to about 10 ram raids a year.”

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