retail crime rings are hitting Charlotte, NC retailers
because of the "growing heroin problem."
And Charlotte Police are fighting back
with a unit they call their target action plan, or Trap
for short. "It's been a surge." It’s a surge in what
police call organized retail crime, fueled in part, they
say, by the increase in black tar heroin in the area,
and addicts who police call heroin boosters. "These are
predominantly heroin abusers," Sgt. Marc Robson said.
"This is what they do. This is their job -- to steal to
support their habit." "There are hundreds of these
people, happening every day at every store," Robson
said. Target is one of several big stores working with
police to break up those professional shoplifting rings.
Police say the crime bosses actually place specific
orders and send shoplifters out to various stores to
fill them. It's just one of several property crimes
where the Trap team has had an impact. Two years ago,
they made 244 arrests. Last year that number almost
doubled to 459. This year they're on track to make even
more. Deputy Chief Kerr Putney said it's working. "These
guys really heard the public complain about property
crime and they've done their job so well, they've made
property crime fighting sexy," Putney said.
ring operating in Glenarden, MD hitting J.C. Penney
cosmetics and police bust two "bit players" of the
bigger ring with $20,000 worth of cosmetics.
Women, police said at a news conference Friday, were
professional shoplifters — bit players in an organized
ring of cosmetically-inclined thieves. Three and four
times a day, police said, Darquesha Wilkinson, 19, and
Latasha Mungo, 24, both of the District, would walk into
department stores across the region, swipe high-end
perfume, lotions and makeup, then sell them on the
streets at a discount, often out of the trunks of their
cars. And until Tuesday — when a J.C. Penney
loss-prevention employee recognized the pair as suspects
in previous shoplifting incidents — they hadn’t been
charged there, blending in with other shoppers because
they were charming and well-dressed, police said.
"That’s what they do. This is their job," said Sgt.
Aubrey Thompson, who heads the Prince George’s County
Police’s Organized Retail Crime Unit. "It only takes
them but 30 seconds." Investigators seized nearly
$20,000 in perfume, makeup and other beauty products
when they arrested the women Tuesday at the J.C. Penney
at Woodmore Towne Centre, Thompson said. Wilkinson and
Mungo were carrying about a third of the merchandise in
large canvas shopping bags filled "to the brim" and the
rest was in their car, Thompson said. The alleged
thieves preferred big brand names, police said.
Victoria’s Secret, Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana perfumes
— sold normally at prices ranging from $25 to nearly $80
a bottle — were among those displayed at the news
conference Friday. Investigators suspect that the women
sometimes took orders from smaller beauty salons — which
wanted to get the products in bulk at discounted rates —
and are probing others’ involvement in the ring,
Thompson said. "It’s the tip of the iceberg," Thompson
said of Wilkinson’s and Mungo’s arrests.
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