MINNEAPOLIS MN Nov 25 2016 As we look to get started on our holiday shopping lists, police will be looking for professional shoplifters.
Beginning on Black Friday, more than 30 Twin Cities law enforcement agencies will launch “Operation Blitz.”
The first-of-its-kind partnership in the state will target organized retail theft and financial fraud.
Police showed WCCO how these professionals do their best to avoid detection.
Take what police say happened at a St. Paul CVS two weeks ago, when a man walked in with a gym bag and loaded it with cleaning supplies. He was out of the store in under 40 seconds.
St. Paul Police Sgt. Charlie Anderson busted him outside another store.
“In plain view, inside his van it was just packed,” Anderson said.
The thief had a list from someone else known to police. He had been ordering $1,000 worth of stuff every week from this professional shoplifter with ties to drug and human trafficking cases.
Sgt. Anderson also serves as executive director of the Twin Cities Organized Retail Crime Association, also known as TCORCA.
“Just right there with that one person doing shoplifting you really have a more organized scheme,” Anderson said.
It is the kind of thing TCORCA will crack down on this holiday shopping season, working specialized details and sharing real-time information between departments.
They will not be as focused on the person who doesn’t pay for a can of formula.
“No, this is someone walking out with 50 cans of baby formula looking to sell it on the black market,” he said.
The Eagan Police Department is one of the agencies involved. Officer Aaron Machtemes explains how the city’s outlet mall has created more opportunities for organized crime.
“There have been many examples of people coming in with a coordinated effort to steal high-dollar items,” Machtemes said.
In some cases, police have watched people use decoys and getaway cars to steal. They have also used tools, like a shopping bag lined with heavy aluminum foil.
“When they actually put clothing into the bag, they seal it. Now the sensors that detect theft in the store are defeated,” Machtemes said.
Police believe it is time the public had a better understanding of these kinds of crimes, considering it costs us all in the end.
“It has a public safety impact and we aim to address it,” Anderson said.
He recommends citizens take steps to prevent financial fraud through the stealing of our identities:
* Police recommend chip and pin cards over chip and signature credit cards.
* Use just one email account for online purchases.
* Be leery of buying items being advertised as new on second-hand sites.