Several Canadian jewellers are among the many businesses that have suffered losses from theft since the beginning of the year.
Don Cardwell, director of loss prevention with Jewellers Vigilance of Canada (JVC), said two of the suspects depicted in our previous story highlighting the ongoing thefts are from Romania. He added the federal government lifted Visa restrictions for Romanians as well as Bulgarians on Dec. 1.
“This has caused a major influx of Romani thieves from their country,” he said, adding the JVC’s “jewellery thefts to date equal our reported losses from 2017 combined.”
“We’ve noticed a big increase since January. The last two months we’ve been hammered. There are more than 200 in the country that are very active,” he said, in regards to the number of people that are believed to belong to the organized theft ring.
One pair of suspects struck upwards of eight jewellers, but Cardwell added there are “probably others that are unreported.
“They’re hitting pawn shops as well—at least one in Kingston and a couple in Toronto.”
According to Cardwell, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian Border Services Agency are operating a task force at Toronto’s Pearson Airport.
“Two were arrested this Friday (March 3) in Toronto and charged with theft. They’re trying to deport them, but a lot of them have these temporary passports they can get now.”
LIFTING VISA REQUIREMENTS
Beginning on Dec. 1, citizens of Romania and Bulgaria no longer required a visa to travel to Canada for short stays (normally for up to six months) for business, tourism or to visit family and friends; however, similar to other visa-exempt travellers, they require an electronic travel authorization (eTA) to fly to or transit through a Canadian airport. An eTA allows officials to screen travellers for potential inadmissibility before they board their flight to Canada. The decision to lift the visa requirements was a culmination of high-level engagement with Romania and Bulgaria on visa issues that began in 2014. It demonstrates “the importance the Government of Canada places on its relationship with both countries, and the EU more broadly,” according to a statement issued late last year.
“Canada values its strong ties with Romania, Bulgaria and the EU, and we are pleased to be able to extend visa-free travel to citizens of all EU member states,” said Ahmed Hussen, minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. “Making it easier for Romanians and Bulgarians to come to Canada will encourage more travel and trade, which in turn, will create new business, trade and investment opportunities for Canadians and Europeans alike.”
LAW ENFORCEMENT ASSISTANCE
According to Cardwell, German and British law enforcement have been assisting the JVC, which is a subsidiary of the Canadian Jewellers Association, in identifying those people responsible for the crimes.
“The method of operations are very similar in all cases. They come into a store in pairs, either father-son or husband-wife. One will produce a large quantity of cash sometimes in U.S. or euros. They will ask to see a number of items, and then may ask to package them differently. They then conceal one or two of the items and then say they don’t have enough cash or they have to go to the bank to change to Canadian currency.”
After the incident, when video surveillance is reviewed, it is “still difficult to see the concealment,” said Cardwell.
“There are many variations of the thefts and distractions. We have advised our jewellers to call in extra sales help to assist and to always stay in possession of the jewellery until purchase.”
Cardwell said the JVC operates a “police-only website,” which police analysts have been using to both find and share information.
“The networking with law enforcement worked out well. JVC members and police can go on the police-only website and see what’s there, and we sent out a circuit to all our members explaining the method. The circuit worked really well; two stores recognized it really well, and if the jewellers know what’s going on they’re pretty vigilant,” he said.
“When we’re not talking and we’re not sharing the communication, they thrive on it. They use jurisdictional boundaries to their advantage, going province to province, and if we aren’t sharing information, they win—bottom line.”
For more information, visit jewellerycrimecanada.ca.