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regular-article-logo Sunday, 21 July 2024

Jewellers meet cops at Lalbazar, flag security concerns

Business to go for a toss if robberies at stores can’t be prevented: Trade body

Debraj Mitra Calcutta Published 15.06.24, 06:30 AM
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Representational image File image

Many jewellers fear that another business considered Bengal’s forte will go for a toss if the state does not do enough immediately to address concerns triggered by a spate of burglaries at jewellery stores.

Some of them said the daylight robberies by gun-wielding men also threatened to snip investment opportunities in Bengal.

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After a meeting with senior officers at the Kolkata Police headquarters in Lalbazar Friday, Samar De, working president of the Swarna Shilpa Bachao Committee, an umbrella association of Bengal’s jewellers, said: “The business will go for a toss if the robberies are not checked. The majority of our visitors are women, more so in the districts. Many of them still prefer buying in cash. They are calling up the stores and expressing reservations about coming in person.”

Another meeting with the police is scheduled for Saturday.

It will be attended by more jewellers and several senior police officers, said a member of the committee.

On Wednesday, a four-member team of the committee met state chief secretary B.P. Gopalika at Nabanna.

On Tuesday, June 11, four armed youths took away around 5kg of gold jewellery from MS Gems and Jewellers Sons, a stone’s throw from Domjur police station, in broad daylight. The gang was audacious enough to keep the shop’s rolling shutters open while looting the jewellery.

The Domjur store is around 14km from Nabanna.

“We told the chief secretary that such a daring robbery close to the government headquarters sends a wrong message,” said De, who owns Guinea Emporium, which has a store in Bowbazar and three more in the districts.

The heist in Domjur was the second in three days. On Sunday, armed robbers barged into a jewellery store in Raniganj in West Burdwan. But the attempt was foiled by police intervention that led to a gunfight.

Two gangs of armed robbers looted two stores of Senco Gold and Diamonds almost simultaneously in Purulia town and Nadia’s Ranaghat on August 29 last year. In Purulia, the goons clicked selfies with the loot before putting them in bags

On May 24 last year, a group of armed robbers entered a jewellery store in Barrackpore, in North 24-Parganas, and opened fire after facing resistance, leaving the owner’s son dead and the owner and an employee injured.

The jewellers are shaken by the audacity of the robbers. “They do not seem to have any fear. When our focus should be on business, daring robberies such as these force us to shift our focus to crisis management,” said Soumik Roychowdhury, director of MP Jewellers, a chain with around 20 stores in Bengal.

The burglaries threaten to put the brakes on jewellers’ expansion plans, said another member of the committee. “Our craftsmen are highly skilled and attract investment to Bengal. But these incidents can be detrimental for people looking to do business in the state,” he said.

Multiple possible redress measures have been discussed in the meetings between government representatives and the jewellers.

They include increased CCTV surveillance and a centralised alarm system.

An official of Senco Gold and Diamonds told this newspaper on Friday: “We are coordinating with the police to ensure the safety of our customers and staff.”

Many stores in the districts have already had a security beef-up.

A jewellery chain that has a dozen stores in Howrah and Hooghly but requested not to be named said: “All the stores in Howrah and Hooghly now have a police presence. Our guards are also keeping an eye on every car stopping at the store.”

Shubadip Roy, of Bengal Jewellery on Central Avenue, said the police in the city had upped their vigil.

Big stores can afford to spend on surveillance and security, said Roy. “But smaller ones often cannot. They need more support from the administration.”

Uday Kumar Chandra, managing director, PC Chandra Jewellers, told this newspaper: “We have taken requisite and precautionary steps to protect ourselves and we are hopeful to get adequate support from all departments.”

An officer at Lalbazar said the police were looking into what the jewellers wanted. “They want a mechanism through which their location will be automatically shared with the police at the tap of a button, as they might find it difficult to speak during a heist,” he said.

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