4 Investigates: Thieves offload loot via social media as repeat offenders become more dangerous | KOB 4
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4 Investigates: Thieves offload loot via social media as repeat offenders become more dangerous

Nathan O'Neal
October 11, 2018 10:25 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Thieves targeting your favorite stores are getting bolder, but they’re also getting more tech savvy when it comes to how they’re offloading the loot.

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All over New Mexico, thieves are snatching whatever is on the shelves before heading online and selling those stolen goods straight to you.

Albuquerque Police Sgt. Jeffrey Barnard told 4 Investigates that it’s getting harder to track thieves as repeat offenders become more elusive, operating, in some cases, almost entirely online.

“It’s hard to keep up with it. There’s so much of it that goes on, honestly,” Barnard said.

Beverly Provencio, the manager at a local Style America salon, said she understands that thieves today target specific products. Her shop has been targeted in the past.

“I want to say they did break in and they just stole a bunch of products,” Provencio recalled.

While she isn’t certain what happened to the stolen products, she suspects they ended up for sale online.

APD tells 4 Investigates that while websites like Craigslist were often used to offload stolen goods, thieves are now changing up their tactics. Facebook Marketplace and smartphone apps like Offer Up and Let Go are now the go-to dumping sites for those products.

According to the National Retail Federation, the top stolen items nationwide include: designer clothing, denim pants, razors, infant formula, designer handbags, laundry detergent, cigarettes, high-end liquor, jewelry and teeth whitening strips.

In Albuquerque, electronics and power tools are especially popular targets, according to APD.

Shoplifting cases are usually committed by repeat offenders. For example, 26-year-old Cathy Hildebrand is what investigators in APD’s Organized Crime Unit call an “alert offender.”

She has been in and out of jail at least 15 times in the past five years, according to police records.

Just last month, police say surveillance video captured Hildebrand and an accomplice at a Home Depot stealing power drills.

Hildebrand would sell stolen items online using the app called Offer Up, according to police. She has posted at least 50 items for sale on the app – mostly power tools – selling them off for about $10,000, according to a review of her Offer Up account.

Hildebrand currently remains locked up in the Metropolitan Detention Center as she faces charges that include shoplifting, failure to appear for court in a previous case and failure to comply with conditions of release.

“If you look at our arrest warrants, it’s the same people throughout the year. They just keep getting released and doing it over and over,” Barnard said.

However, police say the more serious risk is when thieves become more dangerous. Barnard points to a recent shoplifting incident at a local Walmart that turned into a violent shooting. The thief opened fire at a responding police officer, but he was not injured. 

“That’s what we’re trying to prevent with this … it's those people who continue to escalate their behavior and are real problems for our community,” he said.

Before you buy goods through social media, consider this: You don’t always know exactly what you’re getting and where it’s come from.

However, if you go through with the purchase and it requires an in-person exchange, police highly recommend doing it at a Safe Exchange Zone, which has cameras rolling 24/7. You can find one at any Albuquerque Police station.

If you don’t have Safe Zones in your community, police urge you to conduct the transaction in daylight in a public place.

Credits

Nathan O'Neal

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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