New Laws Needed to Support Albuquerque’s Suppression of “Organized Retail Crime” Albuquerque Journal
Crime-weary Albuquerque residents received good news last week when Attorney General Hector Balderas, Mayor Tim Keller and Police Chief Harold Medina announced a new initiative to crack down on “organized crime retail “in which thieves and thief gangs target big box stores and other retailers.
This is not the version of your grandmother’s shoplifting that we are talking about here. It’s cheeky, it’s often orchestrated, and it can become dangerous when store workers or security personnel (or even an outraged passer-by) attempt to confront someone carrying their ill-gotten merchandise through the front door. .
One man, for example, earlier this year, showed a gun and said, “I’m going to start blowing people up,” as he was confronted with changing the price tag during a self-service checkout. The same man and a female accomplice reportedly fired a gun at Sam’s Club employees on Coors Bypass a month later.
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Balderas put all of this in the right perspective at a press conference where he was joined by the mayor, chief and a senior official from Home Depot.
“This is a very profitable industry which now channels and fuels other criminal activity, such as human trafficking and gang activity,” Balderas said. “The most violent criminals in the country now understand that this can be a very profitable business to invest in other criminal activity in New Mexico.”
State laws lack the necessary teeth. Medina pointed out that this is a shoplifting offense under $ 500 and said it would be helpful if the legislature allowed felony charges to be laid if a perpetrator steals from multiple stores or as a member of a group.
âSometimes they may not hit this crime there,â Medina said. âWe need to look at their group activity and be able to continue itâ¦. “
Balderas also said the legislature must pass a retail organized crime law – something Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham should put on his priority list – and the mayor should be prepared to step in and say he will personally lobby the legislature, where he served in the Senate, on these issues.
The public defender and defense lawyers organization basically says that we already have enough laws in place and that the vast majority of shoplifting cases are from individuals motivated by drug addiction.
That’s no great consolation for store clerks or customers lining up to pay for their purchases and watching other people just walk out the door with everything they’ve pulled off the shelves.
Or the Home Depot executive who says we’re not talking about someone stealing a $ 100 drill. “We are talking about those thieves who organize, who are in big organized groups that fund bigger things,” he said.
It is important to do what can be done in the absence of new laws, and some specific proposals were presented at last week’s press conference to this effect.
Keller says the APD will use new technology that includes live streaming video from retailers at the Real Time Crime Center to help investigate and prosecute crimes. Medina mentioned installing license plate readers in retail parking lots to alert officers if a stolen vehicle has entered the premises.
“We are not always going to have agents who will arrive in time to be able to arrest an individual, often these individuals will rush through the front door and leaveâ¦” said Medina. “We hope to get more evidence because we have better access to the technology.”
Balderas said his office “puts our best attorneys on this type of case.”
Don’t make mistakes. It is a dangerous thing, and the response from police and prosecutors – and lawmakers – must be swift and decisive.
âWe see this over and over again in the shoplifting industry where security is going to take an individual into custody and it becomes a violent conflict or an altercation,â Medina said. “This is where we need tougher sanctionsâ¦ to give our prosecutors and law enforcement officers the tools to hold these people accountable.”
And if we don’t, we essentially resign ourselves to the idea that we’re okay with living in a lawless city where thieves can boldly and shamelessly take whatever they want without fear of the consequences.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned because it represents the opinion of the journal rather than that of the authors.