Police Bust Organized Retail Theft Ring

Dallas officers arrest "fencing boss"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Dallas police, with their focus on larger thefts, say they have busted a large shoplifting theft ring. (Published Friday, Dec 30, 2011)

    A new crackdown on organized retail theft in Dallas has netted police their first arrest. But the effort is taking police away from responding to smaller shoplifting cases and that has some retailers upset.

    Property crimes represent 88 percent of all crimes in Dallas. Theft makes up half of all crimes in the city.

    Dallas police are on the lookout for so-called "fencing bosses," who send thieves into stores to steal items they can re-sell at a deep discount and high profit for the crime ring.

    "If it's too good to be true on the price, it's probably stolen," said Dallas police chief David Brown. "Now one local fence has learned the hard way how serious we are about this crime. What you hear at the street level is, I just want the hookup. But the hookup will get you locked up."
     
    Police have put Salvador Martinez Duarte, also known as "Gabriela," behind bars. He's charged with organized retail theft for allegedly stealing and re-selling more than $13,000 worth of items from stores including Target.

    Police said Duarte's ring of thieves made off with handbags from DSW Shoe Warehouse and bridesmaid's and party dresses from David's Bridal.

    "They just will distract the associates, come in, do a grab and run, and run out the door. And you literally will lose thousands of dollars at one time," said David Holt, DSW's Southwest region loss prevention manager.

    The retailers teamed up with police to catch their man. Otherwise, legitimate customers lose out.

    "We find it very frustrating at store level because we really try to keep the best prices for our customers," said Nikki Beckman, manager of a David's Bridal store in North Dallas. "When things like that happen, then we have to pay the rest of our staff extra. We have to put more security systems in place."
     
    Police say they're switching their focus to large theft operations and won't respond to shoplifting under $50, unless the suspect is already wanted or has a history of theft. Instead, stores will have to file a report with the prosecutor -- a hassle for small businesses that would rather have an officer respond.
     
    "$50 or small amounts is still a lot for us, as far as our income and our inventory," said Brad Harrison, a pharmacist at Dougherty's Pharmacy who says plenty of items disappear from its shelves.
     
    Dallas police said shoplifting under $50 is often not worth prosecuting because only 4 percent of suspects get convicted, whereas 30 percent of shoplifting cases over $50 result in convictions.

    Shoplifting cases under $50 that are reported to the district attorney's office will still be counted toward the city's crime statistics, according to Brown.