News

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 BayAreaDesi.com, 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.
Comments
     
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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs