Stats: More smash-and-grabs at jewelry stores

A group smashes cases at an Atlanta jewelry store to steal Rolex watches. (Courtesy - June 2013)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An attempted robbery in the Grand Rapids area and successful robbery in the Detroit area Tuesday reflect a nationwide increase in smash-and-grabs at jewelry stores, many of which target high-end watches.

At Paul Medawar Fine Jewelry in Plainfield Township Tuesday, four men were stopped from getting anything when the store’s owners opened fire, shooting one of them in the torso. The Kent County Sheriff’s Department said they were after Rolex watches. Five hours later, three of the same robbers — apparently minus the one who was wounded — got away with Rolexes from Tapper’s Diamonds and Fine Jewelry in West Bloomfield, authorities say.

Surveillance images of the men who robbed the Tapper's jewelry store in West Bloomfield. (Courtesy the Kent County Sheriff's Department - April 22, 2014)
Surveillance images of the men who robbed the Tapper’s jewelry store in West Bloomfield. (Courtesy the Kent County Sheriff’s Department – April 22, 2014)

Authorities are looking into the Rolex angle, and said Wednesday there was a loose theory there may be a larger gang targeting Rolex watches.

There have been similar robberies all over the county, 24 Hour News 8 discovered, involving groups of men who smash cases and grab expensive watches.

Surveillance video from an Atlanta jewelry store shows one such robbery in June 2013 in which a group of five got away with nearly $1 million in Rolexes. The Dodge Caravan they used as a getaway vehicle and then abandoned had been stolen in Detroit.

It’s unknown whether that robbery is connected to the Medawar and West Bloomfield incidents. The Michigan robbers wore masks and hooded sweatshirts, while the Atlanta crew didn’t. But like the Michigan bandits, the men in Atlanta were organized, smashing glass cases with hammers, grabbing the watches and getting out quickly.

Reports of crooks going after high-end watches in the same way have popped up all over the country.

The FBI’s website confirms there are organized groups that specialize in several different kinds of jewelry store robberies, including smash-and-grabs.

Statistics from the Jeweler’s Security Alliance show the number of smash-and-grabs is increasing. There were 26 of them in 2011 and 62 in 2013, many of them targeting watches. The robbers used guns in 20 of those incidents, like they did at Medawar’s and in West Bloomfield this week.

The FBI said Thursday that a $17,000 reward is being offered for information about Tuesday’s robberies. The government is fronting $10,000 and the West Bloomfield jeweler added $7,000.

Anyone with information about either incident is asked to call the Kent County Sheriff’s Department at 616.632.6100 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.

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