Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Theft and armed robbery

Theft is such a threat to civilization that it made it into the ten commandments. As an opportunistic act it must be as old as property, but it probably didn't become a profession until after markets allowed the development of concentrated and transportable forms of wealth. Even so, theft as a profession, and its close cousin, armed robbery, must be at least as old as agriculture.

So for a very long time, at least for some kinds of items, part of marketplace design includes ways to thwart thieves, or catch them. But security is costly in many ways, not least being that if you make your marketplace hard for thieves to enter, you may also discourage customers. So losses from theft (and payment of theft insurance premia) are often a cost of doing business, leading to the occasional story that could be a movie: Well-dressed thief steals €6 million worth of Chopard jewels in Paris.

"Suspicion has fallen on the Pink Panthers, the name given to a diffuse international gang with origins in the Balkans. French police describe the group’s crimes as lightning-fast hold-ups: daring, but planned down to smallest detail.
In December thieves staged a €74 million jewel theft at the Harry Winston boutique in the Avenue Montaigne, near the Place Vendôme, off the Champs-Elysees. Four robbers, two disguised as women, calmly emptied the store as staff and customers lay on the floor.
The Harry Winston raid came a year after the same store was attacked by robbers who forced staff to empty its safes, taking at least €10 million worth of jewels.
The Pink Panthers have accumulated loot worth up to €200 million in an estimated 120 attacks on stores in around 20 countries since their first robbery in Mayfair in London in 2003.
Two weeks ago Paris police arrested two Serbians, alleged to be Panthers, and charged them with carrying out armed raids on stores in Monaco, Switzerland and Germany.
Last Thursday a former soldier from Montenegro, also said to be a Panther, was sentenced to 15 years in jail for a 2005 jewel robbery in the Riviera resort of Saint-Tropez. The court in Draguignan also fined Dusko Martinovic €130,000 for the raid, which he carried out in 90 seconds with two accomplices who have not been caught. The trio escaped into the Mediterranean aboard a speed boat before the police reached the boutique that they had emptied.
The world record for a jewellery theft remains the $100 million (£62 million) robbery of diamonds in Antwerp, Belgium, in 2003. "

While diamonds can presumably be resold easily, some items, like an iconic artwork or a thoroughbred race horse are too identifiable. But that doesn't always protect them from theft: sometimes thieves steal them and try to ransom them back to the original owners, and sometimes they may be destined to be enjoyed privately by wealthy criminals in distant places. Here's one list of The 10 Most Infamous Heists, some of them still unsolved.

Update: The Times of London reports on a modern form of theft: Criminal gang bought own music on iTunes and Amazon using stolen cards.
A gang of criminal musicians bought their own music online with stolen credit cards, and received royalties...


michael webster said...

Schelling in Strategic Analysis and Social problems notes that for Neil Hickey, the jewel thief, the best customers for stolen jewels were insurance companies.

"The thief liked it, it gave him a market; the police liked it, it recovered the jewels; the lady like it, she got her jewels back, and the go between the thief and insurance company had a good business; the insurance company charged appropriate rates."

Viagra Online said...

this is maybe the third job that come to this world whent the human stablish the civilization concept, with this robbery become a new job.