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Feb 6, 2014 12:17 AM by Rebecca Taylor

Gem dealers staying one step ahead of thieves

TUCSON - Tens of thousands of tourists from around the world have converged on Tucson to get an up-close look at rare fossils and gems. It means about $100-million to the local economy. And where there's big money, there are thieves. A million dollar heist a couple years ago has dealers stepping up security.

Long time dealers we talked with have different ways of dealing with theft. Some have invested in hidden cameras other have hired private security.

Loose stones, jewelry, rare gems and minerals, some worth thousands of dollars. To ward off sticky fingers security guards and Tucson Police are making their presence known. TPD has parked their mobile command center, front and center.

Vendor John Bickner says, "It's always a challenge, we try to keep on top of everything, and make sure if flows properly."

A vendor for 35 years in Tucson, Bickner comes from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. "So we make custom sinks, bowls, chandeliers."

He brought two semi trucks worth of valuable goods. Bickner says he's been a victim of theft in the past, so he's installed hidden cameras.

"For the most part, most people are pretty honest," says Bickner.

"We close our showcase, for the most precious things," says vendor Michel Anbroise.

He's invested in displays, with more locks and keeps two people on the sales floor, at all times to keep watch. "If I have to go outside, I ask my neighbor to watch," says Anbroise.

In 2012, gems valued around $900,000 were stolen. The vendors were from Washington. The goods were recovered a year later in Tucson.

With more than 40 separate shows, 55,000 people are expected to attend over two weeks. The Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Showcase is happening now. The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show runs February 13-16.

For details on specific shows, for wholesalers and the public click here.

» There are multiple updates to this story. Please click here to get the latest information.

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