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Monday, November 21, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Authorities Playing Catch Up !!

Scrap metals theft Bill may take in gold and silver
21 November 2011
THE days of informal scrapping of precious metals such as gold and silver could well be numbered after a new Bill was put before Parliament on November 15 to tackle theft.

The Bill has been drawn up in response to the rising tide of thefts from the railways of copper wire and other metal cabling, which has caused havoc with train timetables; from churches and other buildings of lead roofs, pipework and tiling; and, most recently, of bronze and other metals from public memorials, notably to the War dead, which has caused a particular outcry around Remembrance Day.

However, the provisions of the Bill as set out before parliament leave it open to encompass precious metals, and the sponsoring MP Graham Jones has confirmed to ATG that gold and silver would certainly be debated with a view to possible inclusion.

The soaring price for silver has certainly contributed to a rise in thefts for scrap, an issue Mr Jones says he is aware of.

"The intention is to uphold the law, that is what is important," he said.

Mr Jones has asked the House of Commons for leave to introduce the Metal Theft Prevention Bill, and wants it to include:

• a licensing scheme for scrap metal dealers;

• powers for magistrates to restrict licensing;

• a requirement that trade in scrap metal be restricted to cashless payments, so that transactions can be traced back to their origins;

• new powers for police to search properties owned by scrap metal dealerships;

• a provision that scrap metal proven to have been obtained through theft be classified as criminal assets;

• new criminal charges for theft of scrap metal, which take account of aspects of the crime perpetrated beyond the value of the scrap metal stolen, and for connected purposes.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which backs the proposals, wants even tighter controls, calling for CCTV with automatic number plate recognition in scrapyards as well as making it compulsory for scrap dealers to keep a detailed log of people who they buy metal from.

The Bill enjoyed cross-party support when it was introduced in the House of Commons and will now be drafted before returning on January 20 for further consideration. If all goes according to plan, Parliament expects it to be on the Statute Book before the end of the summer.

The inclusion of the cashless payments clause would certainly cause problems for those who wish to dispose of gold and silver honestly but discreetly, although the compulsory introduction of sales records may prove more acceptable.

In September he told the House of Commons that in 2009 there had been about 100 reported metal thefts per month according to the Energy Networks Association, which represents the electricity and gas network and utility companies. In 2011, that figure has risen to 700 thefts per month, and in one calendar month – March this year – it rose to a record 900 reported thefts.

By Ivan Macquisten

How the industry went online to beat robbers and fraudsters
21 November 2011
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

By Ivan Macquisten

Two years in, SaferGems have already made a difference
21 November 2011
ONE SaferGems alert featured two men wanted in connection with a jewellery theft at a discount jewellery shop in Spring Bank, Hull. During the incident one offender distracted the jeweller while the other stole jewellery to the value of £2300.

The alert generated a call from a SaferGems susbcriber who said they had seen previous alerts concerning the men concerning similar thefts around the country. Apparently they were wanted in the Thames Valley, North Yorkshire, Tayside, Kent, Staffordshire and South Wales police areas.

SaferGems forwarded all the relevant details to Humberside Police who confirmed the incidents seemed to be linked.

Soon after a similar offence occurred in the Lothian and Borders Police area, which led to the arrest of a 33-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy. They were both charged for the offence and appeared at Peebles Sheriff's Magistrates Court, where they were released on bail and told to report to police each Wednesday in the West Midlands.

Details of the case were passed to SaferGems who shared this update with Humberside Police and enquiries were completed which led to the pair being arrested once more when they answered bail.

Further enquiries with SaferGems resulted in paperwork for further offences in South Wales and Nottinghamshire being passed to Humberside Police. The pair were again charged with new offences, to some of which they have since pleaded guilty.

Detective Sergeant John Fuller from Humberside Police said: "The information and assistance given by SaferGems was invaluable and contributed to not only the identification of the men for their involvement with the Hull theft but also other linked offences. Ultimately, without the support of SaferGems it would have taken a great deal of time to identify these men and bring them to justice."

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