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New task force formed to target retail theft

Posted at 5:46 AM, Dec 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-17 07:46:25-05
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Retail theft in Tucson continues to plague businesses and law enforcement and to fight this illegal activity, the Tucson Metro Chamber formed a new task force. 
According to Tucson Police, there's been a 185 percent increase in organized retail theft here, mostly because police are enforcing the crime more and making more arrests. Our property crime rate is more than double the national average.  
In mid November, two thieves stole $3,500 worth of cigarettes from a Circle K. In July, police busted an organized crime ring after surveillance video caught two men stealing from a big box store. 
"This is clearly a big issue," said Michael V. Varney, the president & CEO of Tucson Metro Chamber. He says they formed this new task force after learning how bad the retail theft problem was in Tucson. 
"It seems based on what I've heard that the thieves are becoming more scientific, they're becoming bolder," said Varney. 
The task force is made up of about 50 people representing major retailers, law enforcement agencies and the prosecutor's office. They're working on new ways to fight larceny and organized theft.
Last week, TPD began targeted enforcement by setting up a command post near Park Place mall. In one day, they made three felony arrests. 
"A lot of these folks think it's misdemeanors that they're involved in when in actuality, it's a felony," said Lt. Daniel R. Lewis Jr. with TPD Property Crimes. 
The task force is also working on ways to upgrade surveillance technology in stores, something TPD says hinders the identification process. You also may start hearing PSAs on local radio stations as part of this new task force.
"It's not a victimless crime," said Varney. "The level of theft here is so high that every time an honest consumer goes to the grocery store or a major retailer, they're paying for those losses."