About a half-million dollars worth of jewelry was stolen from a courier’s vehicle in Mercer Island Tuesday.
Mercer Island Police said it happened around 1:45 p.m. at the Island Corporate Center in the 7600 block of SE 24th Street, where the courier had stopped for a short break.
"He had been travelling to several stores throughout Seattle and Bellevue, selling jewelry," said Det. Peter Erickson with Mercer Island Police.
Surveillance cameras captured images of a dark-colored minivan that stopped next to the courier vehicle. Police said the suspects are likely Columbian or Mexican jewel thieves who typically fly into town, rent a van and hang out in a jewelry district, looking for couriers to follow. In this case, they were in and out in less than a minute.
"It (minivan) makes a u-turn comes back, pauses at victim's vehicle then departs. So it's a smash and grab car prowl," said Erickson.
Chris Francisco's jewelry store is just around the corner. He knows couriers come with inherent risk, especially if they show up at his shop unannounced.
"Oh yeah that concerns me," said Francisco. "That's why when they come here I say, 'No you have to leave, give me more time to prepare.'"
Francisco is fully aware couriers can attract trouble, which is why he prefers scheduled meetings with his vendors.
Police say organized gangs either do a car prowl or even an armed takedown, then steal the jewelry and ship it out of the country.
"If they're being followed and they want the jewelry they're going to get it one way or another," said Erickson.
Erickson doesn't know why the courier decided to leave the jewelry in his car when he went inside.
The 621 items stolen Tuesday belonged to a New York City wholesale jewelry company.