BCSO highlights increase in shoplifting, how thieves resell goods

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office personnel were out at Cottonwood Mall in northwest Albuquerque and the surrounding area Thursday afternoon for an operation targeting retail crime.

The crackdown was a part of the office’s county-wide efforts since May of last year.

BCSO leaders said business owners in and near the mall have been telling them about an increase in people stealing from retail stores, and BCSO believes many efforts are now organized.

“We’re trying to be proactive,” BCSO Major Holly Anderson said. “We have heard the information that they’ve been reporting that they are having specific issues, and it has gotten quite organized.”

They’re trying to identify people they call “prolific offenders” – people who are stealing frequently.

They said thieves are hitting retail stores in targeted attacks. They’re grabbing armfuls of the more expensive items, running out and timing it all so they can quickly catch a bus. Deputies said a bus avoids employees identifying their getaway vehicle.

BCSO leaders said the store Spencer’s inside Cottonwood Mall is one of the hardest hit.

“It happens at least maybe once a week. Maybe more,” Spencer’s assistant manager Ariana Carabajal said.

Thieves barge in with a plan.

“We get a little bit of everything. We get adults, parents. We get teenagers,” she said. “We’ve had thousands of dollars just walk out of here.”

Employees said they do what they can – monitor cameras, and have workers walking around, but they don’t follow thieves out of the store – that’s their company policy.

The crime has been frustrating.

“It affects our store greatly,” Carabajal said. “We’re just trying our best.”

BCSO leaders said this summer backpacks and expensive denim have been hot items to steal, and these thieves have plans start-to-finish. 

They’re taking the items to “fences” – people who resell stolen goods at places like pop-up flea markets around town. They often sell them for just below the lowest price you’d see at the store.

Deputies said they’re also seeing people stealing for their personal use – people who may be homeless. They said they had social workers on-site during the operation Thursday to connect people with resources if they wanted that kind of help.

“Our mission is to enforce the law and to also provide services,” Anderson said.

The specific operation took place for eight hours Thursday afternoon and evening. A BCSO spokesperson confirmed they recovered and returned all of the $600 worth of retail merchandise. The operation also recovered one stolen vehicle and deterred three attempted retail thefts.

It also led to eight arrests for:

  • Shoplifting
  • Felony and misdemeanor warrants
  • Receiving and transferring a stolen motor vehicle
  • Probation violations
  • Criminal trespassing