Dallas PD Busts Up Fencing Operation ... But, Wait, Hang On, What's This About Not Answering Under-$50 Shoplifting Calls?

Categories: City Hall, Crime

ChiefDavidBrown.jpg
DPD Chief David Brown
There's just one thing that will get us out of bed the day after the editorial staff's holiday party, on what is (ahem) supposed to be a day off: a City Hall press conference concerning organized retail theft. Mayor Mike Rawlings, Dallas Police Chief David Brown and Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins called a shindig in the Flag Room to announce they've made their first arrest under the new multiagency attack on organized retail theft which you may remember scoffing at earlier this month.

But that announcement was overshadowed by an interesting piece The Dallas Morning News posted about an hour before the press conference began: DPD will no longer respond to shoplifting calls if the stolen merchandise totals $50 or less. Instead, retailers who want to press charges for these offenses will need to file an online affidavit directly with the city prosecutor's office. The Dallas Police Association's president-elect, Ron Pinkston, told the paper that the new policy is intended solely to "lower crime stats" and will "kill small business owners." Shoplifting under $50 accounts for about 40 percent of retail theft, according to Chief Brown. So, then: Is the DPD planning to just ignore pervasive, commonplace theft?

Brown said no and insisted the article oversimplified the new policy. He'd address that later during the press conference. But first to the business at hand: Brown announced that after several months of "surveillance and planning," DPD last week arrested Salvador Martinez Duarte for running a fencing operation out of his home on Symphony Lane, near Samuell and Jim Miller.

"On multiple occasions, Duarte received several retail items at a discount rate," Brown said, mainly women's apparel and goods from Target, DSW Shoe Warehouse and David's Bridal (reps from DSW and David's Bridal were also present this morning). Brown said that officers were able to recover some $13,000 in stolen merchandise from Duarte's home and that he'll likely be charged with a third-degree felony, which could land him up to 10 years in jail.

Rawlings called operations like Duarte's "the snowball on the tip of a very big iceberg," adding, "If you're out there, and you're a criminal involved in this sort of thing, we're comin' after you."

"If it's too good to be true, it's probably stolen," Chief Brown said. "One local fence learned that the hard way."

Brown said Duarte's arrest was meant to underscore "how serious we are with this type of crime." He vowed to end a "revolving door" for low-level thieves by prosecuting middle-men like Duarte more aggressively, and said police and the DA's office "want to figure out a way to take [Duarte's] home from him." Brown called fence operations a serious problem for neighborhoods, because they bring in criminals "hawking stolen goods."

Brown said police expect to make other arrests in connection with Duarte's operation. "We want to sent a strong message we won't tolerate this type of crime," he said.

But when question time came around, everyone wanted to know more about the new policy regarding $50-and-under thefts. Are police really not going to respond in person to these complaints anymore?

"That's a very simple way to describe a very complex change we made," Brown said. He said that $50-and-under offenses are Class C misdemeanors and typically have around a 4 percent conviction rate. Over $50, and the crime's bumped up to a Class B, and Brown said the conviction rate there jumps to around 30 percent. By focusing more intently on higher-dollar crimes, he said, "we create greater consequences."

"Our strategies before weren't very smart," he said, adding that beat officers often had to take time out of their shifts to transport petty thieves to jail. Retailers then often didn't show up to court for lower-amount offenses, he said, leading to the cases going nowhere. He said that the prosecutor's office will continue to press charges for $50-and-under thefts, and that "every crime is counted" in annual crime statistics.

"We're focusing our resources smarter and more efficiently," he added. "We're trying to be smarter on this issue and not expend resources on a lower level [crime]."

Someone asked how retailers will realistically be able to file these theft reports themselves, given that they can't search suspected shoplifters or compel them to give their real names. Brown said retailers with a shoplifter in custody should call 911, where clerks have been instructed to do background checks. If the person has been arrested for theft before, or has warrants out for their arrest, police will respond, he said.

At which Brown tried to get back on topic: "It was a low-level arrest we interviewed who told us about the fence" that Duarte was operating, he said. "This change will improve convictions." Additionally, he explained, business owners will now have to sign an affidavit promising to show up in court if they press charges for theft, no matter what the amount.

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22 comments
stevrobin100
stevrobin100

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Royce Williams
Royce Williams

So Dallas PD has decriminalized shoplifting.  Yet another reason to avoid street hustler friendly Big D.  No one in their right mind should feel safe in a city with an incompetent police chief that comes up with such a lame bullshit justification for not providing basic police services.  Can you imagine how this shameful policy will impact locally owned small businesses in high crime neighborhoods? Now that the predators know the police will not respond, they can steal with impunity as long as they keep it below 50 bucks.

Vgrzy
Vgrzy

When my friend tried to keep a shoplifter in her store, she was told by the police she could not do that because it was kidnapping.  So what I'm hearing is that, in addition to paying property taxes, now the retail business owner will have to employ off-duty police officers who actually have the authority to take someone into custody and demand ID.  At least those union dues are being put to good use.  If the retailers/plaintiffs are not showing up in court to prosecute, then they should be stuck with the court and administrative costs up to the point of dismissal and also charged with filing a false police report.  After two no-shows, the business should be downgraded to low priority for response to shoplift calls.  The good news is this should hit the crappy convenience stores and liquor stores hard financially, and maybe they will move out of my neighborhood.

james
james

we once called dpd for a burglary in progress. cops came, caught the punks red-handed. they 'couldn't make an arrest' for whatever lazy-assed excuse. but the corporal seemed to believe they were redeeming themselves in our eyes by stopping a guy on a bicycle(who wasn't part of the burglary) down the street, roughing him up a bit and telling us that he was behind much of the neighborhood crime.

Monkeybad
Monkeybad

"every crime is counted", not true sir. Those cases that are filed Directly with the city attorneys office will not be included in crime stats. Please stop misleading us. The fact that it may take up too much of officers time is reasonable, but the other is just plain dishonesty.

james
james

next brown will announce that dpd will no longer accept calls for burglary, purse snatchings, if they don't take more than $50 worth....texas law says don't use deadly force until after dark or they may send you to prison for defending your own. so, in the daytime, as long as you are bigger/ stronger than the store clerk....in wonderful dallas texas...you don't have to stand in line anymore.   can we please get a decent competent police chief? this guy is an incompetent moron who shouldn't even have a badge. makes rick ferry look downright brainy.

Schnoodle
Schnoodle

...retailers with a shoplifter in custody should call 911, where clerks have been instructed to do background checks. I thought the background check process was restricted to law enforcement.  It sounds a bit loose to open that resource up to all the retailers in Dallas.  Whose to say they won't be using the "service" to screen potential boyfriends/girlfriends. 

Schnoodle
Schnoodle

Utterly ridiculous, and quite frankly unbelievable.  Now that they have those pesky class C thefts off their backs, they are probably fast at work trying to find the next crime they can outsource to the public.  Try putting some of the energy trying to shed your responsibility into building, at minimum, an adequate police department.  The tax-paying citizens deserve that at the very least. 

Justin Julian
Justin Julian

This is actually smart.  The problem, again and again, is crime victims not following through.  They want the problem solved, then they want to ignore it.  This will make them take it seriously, or not.  If they just want the item back and throw the guy out of the store, fine, do that...but you aren't going to use police resources as a deterrent without then following through, pressing charges, and showing up in court.

james
james

so people can just take what they want as long as it's worth less than $50??!!   ain't brown great?

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

[Someone asked how retailers will realistically be able to file these theft reports themselves, given that they can't search suspected shoplifters or compel them to give their real names. Brown said retailers with a shoplifter in custody should call 911, where clerks have been instructed to do background checks. If the person has been arrested for theft before, or has warrants out for their arrest, police will respond, he said.]

I still don't understand how store clerks will be able to positively ID shoplifters without assistance from the police.  Absent a positive ID, it will be impossible for police to know whether or not a person has been arrested for theft before or has warrants out for their arrest.

Crap Detector
Crap Detector

What next? Deciding whether a flesh wound vs penetrating stab wound or embedded bullet gets a certain level of response? "If you are bleeding profusely, press 1. If blood is dripping but you are coherent and can walk, press 2..." Obviously, they will respond to dead bodies....or will that be different if the victim is barely alive?  SHEESH

lorlee
lorlee

I think this ia all part of their plan to make the statistics look good.   Supposedly, our crime stats are way down.  I think that may be because they categorize things as criminal mischief.   The theft of my  neighbor's brand new $4,000 AC unit was categorized as criminal mischief in the $1500 to $20,000 category.  Clearly a theft, but  if it is categorized as criminal mischief, the statistics look great. 

Guest
Guest

Is that $50 with or without tax? What if an item $49.82 at Wal-mart but $50.02 across the street at Target? Will DPD "meet or beat" the better price?

Doug in DFW
Doug in DFW

Brilliant!  This should free up more time & resources for DPD to protect the assets of the 1%.Reminder to self - use a decoy when purchasing bootleg TicketCity Bowl merch.

james
james

what police resources?

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

The reclassification of crimes has been mentioned in the news before. What in hell are our tax dollars going to (aside from suspension bridges, park decks, and studies on the Trinity River Toll road)-not libraries, road maintenance, or public safety. What a crock of crap the city is foisting on the tax payers and citizens-now there are some criminals for you – elected ones no less.

Reminds me too of the to-do a few years ago about the police responding to residential or business alarms.

Ed D.
Ed D.

So how is the 911 operator going to know that I'm not the real "Robert Wilonsky" when I give her that name? Remember, the store owner has no legal way to search me or compel me to reveal my identity. This seems like a free pass for small-time crooks.

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