Manteca is sending a message to organized retail crime rings.
You run a greater risk of getting caught, prosecuted, and sent to prison than in most other jurisdictions in California if you ply your trade in Manteca..
And it has all to do with rank-and-file officers looking for more effective ways to fight crime then Manteca Police Chief Mike Aguilar dedicating a full-time detective to organized retail crime (ORC).
And while there are regional task forces in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, San Diego and soon in Sacramento to combat the growing rise of organized retail crime, no other city in California besides Manteca has a full-time dedicated detective to such criminal activity.
The scope of the problem is significant.
In the last two years in just two stores — Home Depot and Walmart — there was $5 million in theft losses in Manteca both reported and not reported to the department.
Another store — Ulta Beauty Supply — lost $200,000.
Retail theft accounted for the lion’s share of the $5.4 million in property losses reported to the MPD in 2021. Of that, 38.14 percent or $2.09 million worth of property was recovered.
According to Manteca Police ORC Detective Dave Brown, Ulta representatives said their Manteca store was on their list of locations they were considering closing due to the store theft rate until Manteca was able to step up and effectively target organized retail crime.
Brown shared with the Manteca Rotary during their weekly meeting Thursday at Mt. Mike’s Pizza that the department’s organized retail crime effort was one of the reasons Boot Barn cited for opening a store in Manteca.
Brown said the department is planning to add a second detective if funding is available next year.
“There is enough work easily for two to three officers,” Brown said.
By having a dedicated detective that can be contacted directly by store loss prevention officers and who also networks with nearby departments, Manteca has been able to position itself to be at the locations of retail theft crimes either in advance or within minutes.
Typically, police departments depending upon call volume and dealing with higher priority crime can easily take 15 minutes or more to respond to such calls
The dedicated ORC detective has resulted in a large number of arrests.
Brown noted ORC criminals will travel from town-to-town hitting stores often within the same chain. Due to the network Manteca police has established with other departments in the region as well as working with local stores, they are often alerted when such criminals are in the area.
As such Brown — along with patrol officers — are often on scene as culprits are leaving stores, are able to stake out stores that are likely to be hit based on criminal activity going on in nearby cities, or relay critical information to other departments that allow then to nab suspects.
“They (organized retail criminals) will often keep returning over time to the same stores,” Brown said.
Based on Manteca’s stepped up efforts that doesn’t happen as often here.
Brown noted in the past two years the department has arrested only one repeat offender.
The department was able to make headway against retail crime through a number of measures.
First, the department trained store loss prevention officers to properly fill out crime reports and forward them to the department for more minor shoplifting incidents when they retain individuals caught trying to steal less than $950 in merchandise which makes it a misdemeanor. Those reports are reviewed by Brown.
Brown then forwards those reports to an assistant San Joaquin County district attorney dedicated to prosecuting retail crime.
While critics of online reporting for minor crimes often bemoan the fact an officer doesn’t show up to take their reports in a timely manner if they don’t want to file a report online, doing so with stores has freed up significant time of officers.
That means they are able to devote energy and resources to go after the more egregious offenders
And — as Brown noted — many of those involved in organized retail crime have serious criminal backgrounds running the gamut from murder and drug trafficking to other serious felonies such as assault. That means if they make an arrest they have a high likelihood of getting them off the streets and back into prison.
The department has also trained its own officers on how to better investigate retail crime.
By being able to focus resources better by freeing up officers and not tying them up with lower level shoplifting reports, the police are able to significantly increase their pursuit of organized retail crime suspects.
Brown said by catching them in the act with witnesses, video footage and arresting them on the spot they are able to close the case and deliver to the district attorney everything needed to prosecute offenders and send them to prison.
Brown noted Manteca has been able to secure a 50 percent reduction in retail crime losses in the last two years.
They also were able to arrest or identify 202 suspects in 2020 and 187 suspects in 2021.
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