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Agencies, Nassau cops coordinate to focus on spike in luxury timepiece heists

Video from the Nassau Police show men stealing

Video from the Nassau Police show men stealing Rolex watches from a high-end Roosevelt Field jewelry store in September 2014. Credit: NCPD

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are working with Nassau police to crack the case of a smash-and-grab at a high-end Roosevelt Field jewelry store that netted thieves $230,000 in Rolex watches -- a robbery scenario that has occurred several times in recent months across the country, officials said.

Nassau Det. Sgt. John Giambrone, commanding officer of the Robbery Squad, said he's sharing information about the robbery last month with other police agencies -- in areas where similar luxury timepiece heists have occurred -- but he could not say yet whether the same thieves had committed any of those crimes.

Nassau investigators are analyzing the hammers, which the thieves left behind, used to break display cases at the Tourneau Jewelry store and the contents of the stolen pickup truck in which they fled, for fingerprints and DNA, Giambrone said.

The theft of Rolex watches has spiked recently, according to an alert from a jewelry industry insurance company, with thieves hitting at least nine stores from Mississippi to Massachusetts from June to late August.

The Aug. 28 message warned: "If you carry high end watches in your inventory, you are a target!"

In one July heist in Southern California, armed robbers stole 40 Rolex watches from a jewelry store. And a gang of thieves using sledgehammers and an ax stole 10 Rolex watches from a London store on the morning of Aug. 27, said a report in the London Evening Standard newspaper.

The Jewelry Security Agency, a Manhattan-based trade group, said there was an 8.1 percent decrease in all jewelry store crimes in 2013 over the previous year, resulting in a loss of $66.5 million. More recent numbers were unavailable.

An FBI spokesman did not respond to a message seeking comment on the apparent spikes.

Nassau robbery detectives are also examining video surveillance cameras -- a key component in the department's intelligence-led policing -- in the areas where the stolen getaway truck was dumped. The green and gray 1997 Ford F-150 pickup truck was stolen from a business on Voice Road in Carle Place and was found by police about 15 minutes after the robbery on Stewart Avenue in East Garden City, Giambrone said.

Police said that when the three men walked into Tourneau, a New York-based chain that says it features "the world's finest selection of watches," on Sept. 16 about 5:20 p.m., a store employee greeted them: "You having a good day, fellas?"

One of the thieves replied: "It's about to get better."

The three men then used the hammers to smash the glass display cases and snatched 27 watches -- two of which were later found. They were in and out of the store in 45 seconds, Giambrone said.

The men ran from Tourneau and through the mall's Macy's department store, where one of the stolen watches, apparently dropped, was found. Another watch, also lost during the escape, was discovered in the parking lot. No one was injured.

A manager at the Tourneau store in Roosevelt Field referred a reporter to a corporate spokeswoman, who declined to comment.

In a statement, mall management said the safety and security of its tenants and shoppers is "our top priority," but declined to specify any security measures it may have taken in light of the heist. "We take ongoing and special precautions to protect everyone in the mall community," the statement said.

Almost a month before the Roosevelt Field robbery, three men also used hammers in a similar smash-and-grab at a Tourneau store in The Westchester mall in White Plains, stealing seven timepieces worth $315,000, The Journal News reported. White Plains police did not immediately return a call for comment.

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