Undercover cops aim to catch thieves
As stores around Newark get busier for the holiday season, the Newark Police Department is once again cracking down on shoplifters.
Plainclothes officers from the department’s Special Operations Unit will be positioned in stores around the city in an attempt to identify and arrest people who are stealing.
“Shoplifting affects all of us and oftentimes leads to more serious crimes being committed by the perpetrators,” Chief Paul Tiernan said in a prepared statement. “The Newark Police Department takes retail theft extremely seriously and we will continue to hold those responsible to the fullest extent of the law.”
The initiative – which began the week before Thanksgiving and will continue at least through the end of the year – includes undercover officers as well as “high visibility” surveillance in shopping centers.
Lt. Fred Nelson said that while the focus is on shoplifting, officers will also be watching for other crimes like thefts from vehicles.
So far this year, NPD has responded to 171 shoplifting reports and filed more than 60 charges. Those statistics are roughly on par with this time last year.
Most shoplifting occurs at supermarkets or big box stores because it’s easier for thieves to blend in and go unnoticed, Nelson said.
While some stores have loss prevention officers, many are not allowed to apprehend suspects and instead call police, who arrive after the thieves leave, he said. Having officers in the stores means they can arrest the suspects immediately and recover the stolen merchandise.
Often when suspects are arrested, they are also in possession of drugs or items stolen previously, Nelson added.
NPD first conducted the undercover anti-shoplifting initiative last December in response to a 70 percent increase in shoplifting reports from the previous year. Last year’s initiative resulted in the arrests of at least 18 people on more than 50 charges, including theft and drug possession, officials reported at the time.
In one case last year, a plainclothes officer was standing near the exit of Home Depot with the store’s loss prevention officer when he saw a woman leave pushing a shopping cart filled with various tools and Christmas ornaments. The officer chased her into the parking lot, where he arrested her.
The undercover sting also snared a three-member shoplifting ring wanted for thefts from several stores in the area.
Last week, Nelson released photos of several people suspected of shoplifting in recent weeks and asked for the public’s help identifying them.
Anyone with information regarding the suspects should contact Master Cpl. Jay Conover at 302-366-7100 ext. 3443 or JConover@newark.de.us. You can send an anonymous tips by texting 302NPD and your message to TIP411, through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333, or through the internet at www.tipsubmit.com.
Newark Police released several surveillance photos of people suspected of shoplifting.