Rash of Jewelry Thefts Has Indian-Americans Re-Thinking Customs

People shop for gold jewelry in Ahmadabad, India, May 6, 2011, during the Hindu festival
People shop for gold jewelry in Ahmadabad, India, May 6, 2011, during the Hindu festival " Akshay Tritiya", which is considered auspicious for buying gold. Indian-Americans' love affair with gold has made them targets for criminals.

The custom of many Indian-Americans of keeping large amounts of high-quality gold and gold jewelry in their homes is making them targets for criminals around the United States.

In the past nine months, eight jurisdictions in suburban Atlanta, Georgia have reported cases of robbery, burglary and even home invasion. Cobb County alone has seen 15 cases. In upstate New York there have been numerous cases of burglary in several jurisdictions.

“There’s a common perception among criminals that there's a likelihood they're going to get high quality jewelry robbing Indian-Americans,” said Corporal Jacob Smith of the Gwinnett County Police, a force patrolling the Atlanta suburbs where several recent crimes have happened.

Gold jewelry traditionally is seen by many Indian-Americans as an investment and an important way to display family status. Jewelry is passed down over generations. The custom of keeping it in the home is both convenient and a holdover from India, where banks and safety deposit boxes are not always considered completely safe.

That custom appears to have spurred crime sprees in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Boston and central Illinois, all areas with large Indian-American populations.

Law enforcement officers still aren’t sure just how organized the criminals are, but Sargeant Dana Pierce of the Cobb County Police Department in suburban Atlanta said there’s enough of a trend to consider the perpetrators may be collaborating.

“We’re working with agencies up and down the eastern seaboard and as far west as Houston, Texas,” he said, adding that while they have made some arrests, the crimes have not stopped completely.

The criminals know what they’re looking for, and with the price of gold skyrocketing, it presents a tempting target because the material is easy to melt and easy to sell.

Catching the criminals with the stolen goods has proved to be difficult, said Pierce.

“We're very suspicious about how they're getting [the stolen merchandise] so quickly away from themselves,” he said, suggesting this is indicative of organized crime.

Law enforcement agencies are reaching out to the affected communities, holding information sessions and giving crime prevention tips, but the best solution is to convince Indian-American to stop keeping valuables in the home.

Raman Kumar learned that lesson the hard way. He fell victim to a string of robberies of Indian-Americans in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. in 2009. The thieves stole a gold statue, but left electronics and other valuables behind. He lost over $100,000 worth of gold and jewelry, none of which was recovered.

“I don't have any valuables in my home anymore," said Kumar. “A lot of Indian-Americans are keeping their valuables in safety deposit boxes as a result of the 2009 robberies.”

In those cases, the thieves operated out of New York, where they would take the stolen goods to be melted down.

As the Northern Virginia spree unfolded, Kumar started a blog to share the latest information with other members of the community.

Keeping the community informed is crucial to foiling would-be thieves, according to Pierce, who said a similar website has been launched in the Atlanta area.

In the Bay area of California, where there has been a spate of burglaries and even muggings of Indian-Americans, Vikash Rungta, who helps run the website, said it has gotten hard to rent a safety deposit box in heavily populated areas like Sunnyvale.

“Some banks have waiting lists,” he said.

Rungta also said Indian women are changing their habit of wearing expensive jewelry, wearing it only at private parties.

“It’s getting more acceptable to wear less or none at all,” he said.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs