ROCHESTER — As investigators work with federal officials, Police Chief Michael Allen believes retail thefts — from shoplifting to the use of fraudulent credit cards to obtain gift cards — are “an epidemic.”
While Allen believes police have only seen the “tip of the iceberg” in the matter of organized retail theft, which is a new phenomenon to the area, he’s especially concerned with the rise in shoplifting in the past year.
In 2012, there were 238 reports of shoplifting and 181 related arrests. By the following year, there were 368 reports, a 55 percent increase, and 291 arrests, a 61 percent rise, according to Allen.
“Shoplifting is a major component,” Allen said.
He said the process to investigate and prosecute shoplifters takes time away from other activities and forces police to be more reactive.
Allen said police have worked with retailers, which have hired more loss prevention personnel, and have made it a policy to issue a press release for every arrest, which increases awareness and may deter others.
“The organized piece is a whole other ballgame,” Allen said, adding he expects to see more cases in the area in future.
On Jan. 9, police arrested two men who allegedly had a van full of stolen goods, phony credit cards and fake driver’s licenses.
Vic Washington, 44, of 203 Street in Queens, N.Y., was charged with six felonies — conspiracy to commit theft by deception, conspiracy to commit theft and four counts of receiving stolen property – and misdemeanor counts of the manufacture, sale and possession of a false identification and the possession of controlled/narcotic drug.
Aaron Young, 30, of 11137 203rd St. in St. Albans, N.Y., was charged with felony forgery and eight misdemeanors – theft by deception, six counts of receiving stolen property and the manufacture, sale and possession of a false identification.
On Jan. 13, police arrested a second pair after they allegedly purchased $9,000 in gift cards fraudulently.
Deval Rhodes, 22, of 2168 Renfrew Ave. in Elmont, N.Y., was charged with forgery and possession of marijuana while Djeffry Louis, 20, of 245 Rosedall St. Apt. # 11422, New York City, was charged with the possession of cocaine, transporting marijuana and driving after revocation or suspension.
“Organized retail theft is a national problem,” Allen said, adding police are working with members of the U.S Secret Service as the matter may cross state lines.
Allen credited the “extraordinary work” of the local officers who tracked down the men and detectives who pieced the case together using computer forensics, finances and multiple interviews.
Anyone having further information about this matter or similar acts is encouraged to contact the Rochester Police Department at 330-7128.