Bernalillo County district attorney vows to crack down on shoplifters

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — While state lawmakers have made some moves to address shoplifting, the Bernalillo County district attorney says major changes are about to make a difference – even with the small-time thieves.

At a news conference Tuesday, District Attorney Sam Bregman pointed to hundreds of misdemeanor cases that are going nowhere.

“It’s not working,” Bregman said. “It’s not even close to working.”

Bregman said his office is going to fix this.

“The days of shoplifting without consequences are over in Bernalillo County,” Bregman said.

Out of 662 misdemeanor shoplifting cases last year, only 101 cases ended in convictions or plea deals. A majority of cases were just dismissed.

“15% is all that was convicted of misdemeanor metro cases in Bernalillo County,” Bregman said. “That is unacceptable at every level. I’m not placing blame on anyone. But enough is enough.”

Those low-level cases have typically been prosecuted by police officers. Moving forward, the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office will be prosecuting all shoplifting cases, including misdemeanor cases.

Bregman said they have hired 40 attorneys since he took office in January. The office is fully staffed, and a team of 14 prosecutors will add hundreds of cases to their workload.

The district attorney said he knows shoplifting is often a means to feed addiction, so his office will also offer diversion programs and ways for people to get out of the criminal justice system. However, he says if people continue to shoplift – even small items – they will push for jail time.