With the Price on Gold Soaring, Jewelry Thefts Are on the Rise

Gold chains are being snatched of people's necks, police say.

August 21, 2011, 10:54 PM

Aug. 22, 2011 — -- The price of gold has hit an all-time high of nearly $1,900 per ounce, and with the soaring prices comes a rise in thefts.

In Los Angeles this year, more than 110 people have had their gold chains ripped right off their necks. Police say gold jewelry has been snatched all over the country, and they're warning people to be careful.

"They see the dollar sign, and they are going for it. They are willing to take a lot more of a chance than they used to," Cmdr. Andy Smith of the Los Angeles Police Department told "Good Morning America."

Burglars are targeting jewelry stores, smashing jewelry cases and grabbing everything they can.

Last week, thieves stole an ancient bar of gold worth $550,000 from the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West, Fla. The artifact had been a partially open display case and patrons were allowed put their hands inside and touch the gold bar. The thieves picked it up and walked out with it.

Police in Phoenix have been trying to catch a man who they say engages in small talk with female high school students, then snatches their gold necklaces.

Erin Stevenson is the owner of MyGoldPartyCA.com, a company that hosts gold-buying parties, and she says it's getting to the point where some women are afraid to wear their gold in public.

"You've got to know where you're going when you're wearing jewelry like that," she told ABC News. "You've got to really make sure you're not putting yourself in a position where the wrong guy is going to walk up and snatch your necklace."

The crimes are difficult to solve because, after crooks have stolen the jewelry, they sell it to be melted down, so all the evidence disappears.

Police in Milwaukee said they caught several thieves and drug addicts who confirmed they were stealing jewelry to sell to gold-buying businesses.

No comprehensive statistics on gold or jewelry thefts nationwide are available, but burglaries increased about 4 percent overall in Milwaukee from 2007 to 2009, while all other crimes decreased, a pattern investigators linked in part to stolen gold.

Police in Georgia and North Carolina recently broke up a large burglary ring that was targeting gold and jewelry, said Mac Abercrombie, a detective in Douglasville. Six suspects were arrested in Georgia, and at least 30 other persons are suspected of involvement.

In Anne Arundel County, Md., east of Washington, D.C., arrests for stolen goods sales at gold shops and pawn shops rose 200 percent from 2007 to 2008.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.