Mayor, Police Chief Ask You Not To Buy Your Christmas Gifts On The Black Market This Year

rawlingsandbrown.JPG
Photos by Anna Merlan
Mayor Rawlings, Chief Brown and the council at this morning's presser to announce "attack" on buyers, sellers of stolen goods
This holiday season, City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and the Dallas County District Attorney's Office would like to remind you not to buy your gifts out of the trunks of cars or through sketchy-seeming eBay sellers. At a packed press conference at City Hall this morning, Mayor Mike Rawlings, Dallas Police Chief David Brown, First Assistant District Attorney Heath Harris and half a dozen city council members joined with representatives from a slew of major retail chains to announce their new partnership to target organized retail theft.

"It's not an approach," Rawlings told the audience. "It's an attack. We're going on the offensive today." And that attack, as Brown made clear, could focus on not just the people selling stolen goods, but people buying them.

The conference came a couple months after the DA's office announced that 17 people were indicted in a retail theft ring that boosted some $400,000 worth of goods. But it appears that was just the tip of the people-stealing-stuff iceberg: Rawlings said that Dallas County lost an estimated $20 million in sales tax revenue last year as a result of retail theft. He added that there's a "powerful and extensive" list of retailers and city officials behind the new project. The major chains who had reps standing beside the mayor at the conference included Target, Walmart, Tom Thumb, Fiesta, Kroger, Neiman Marcus and Toys "R" Us.

"Some people think it's just a little shoplifting," Rawlings said, rather sternly. "That's not the case. It's serious." During the holidays, he said, "we want the goods going out the front of the door, not the back."

Chief Brown said that property crime accounts for 88 percent of total crime in Dallas. While violent crime is down 9 percent this year, he said, property crime is only down 3 percent. "That's not good enough," he said.

And just who's stealing all this stuff? Brown said the retail chains are being targeted by "aggressive organized criminal enterprises," He said the department has evidence that crime bosses make lists of hot items -- "like a vacuum cleaner, for example" -- that they ask their thieves to steal from stores and distribute to be resold. "It's an enterprise, a collaborative business process," he said. "But it's illegal." He promised these thieves and bosses will, when caught, be met with "more severe sentences and higher charges."

But Brown said another major issue with retail theft is the black market where people will buy the stolen goods. He said there really are thieves selling stuff "from the trunks of cars for 20, 30, or 40 percent under market value."

Harris wanted to make the implications of that clear: "If you are buying, selling, or stealing retail products," he said, "We're gonna prosecute you ... and we're going to do our best to make sure you go away for a long, long time." He said the DA's office is "fed up" with this type of theft.

"If it sounds too good to be true," Chief Brown said, "it's stolen." He said that undercover officers will also be working on the project, and that some items may be "tracked using technology." He added that someone buying a stolen item could potentially "be caught up in a criminal investigation," and urged citizens to call 911 if they suspected stolen property was being sold.

During the Q&A period, South Dallas activist Willie Mae Coleman raised her hand and named half a dozen specific South Dallas streets where she said stolen property is being openly sold.

"They've been doing this for years," she told Brown. "I know the law officers have seen them. Everybody's seen them. ... But it just gets worse." Brown reassured her that the new approach would prevent a "revolving door" of briefly jailing thieves by instead targeting the "root cause" of retail theft, the organized gangs.

Rawlings said the council will be briefed on the initiative Wednesday. But the bottom line, he said, "Is that there are bad guys out there stealing things from retail businesses, selling them to crime bosses, or someplace out there in the street, or online... People who buy those things are helping criminals."

"We say no mas," the mayor told the audience. "Dallas needs to be the safest city in America, and the safest place to do business."

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Doug in DFW
Doug in DFW

Dusted off The Coup's Pick a Bigger Weapon LP from 2006 for a different perspective.The opinions offered are Boots Riley's & this Unfair Park comment should not be interpreted as an approval or endorsement of said opinion.

I Love Boosters! - track 13I love them boostersThey love them boostersYou should love them tooEven if they don't know yaThey'll get it for yaLike a whole outfit or shoe

A booster is a person who jacks from the retailAnd sells it in the hood for dirt-cheap resaleIn these hard times, and press on like Lee NailsIn all of my experience, sex has been a femaleBack in elementary, my shoes used to rapEvery time my soles would hit the street they would flapThen in high school Langston Anderson would cap'Cause my jacket didn't have a brand name on the backYears later this lady took me to her apartmentIt looked like the Macy's sportswear departmentClothes on the chairs, on the couch, and the carpetA twenty had me icy like leasing in the arcticIf it wasn't for the hard work of a boosterMost couldn't go to the clubs that we're used toIf you won't get the dress cold they'll boot yaLike people who did dress up won't shoot yaFor some of y'all folks, this stuff might phase yaThis ain't the way the society raised yaBut most of it was made by children in AsiaThe stores make money off of very low wagesThe next time you see two women running out the GapWith arms full of clothes still strapped to the rackOnce they jump in the car, hit the gas and scatIf you have to say something, just stand and clap

[Chorus]

This goes to all them hard working womenWho risk jail-time just to make them a livingWe know there'd probably be no one in prisonIf rights to food, clothes, and shelter were givenPlus they be giving me dress so freshEven when my wallet yells, "S.O.S."In a cheaper Sunday suit, you feel a little more blessedSo until the revolution that I professMy shirt is from Stacey, my pants are from RhondaMy shoes came out the trunk of a baby blue HondaMy wardrobe's in luck if something falls off a truckIf you're looking for some leather, then go see YolandaI'm on the red carpet and they ask who designed thisI'm gonna give a shout-out to Bay Area's finestAll on our own, we survive this with slynessBut when we come together, all our fashion is flyness

mark zero (Jason)
mark zero (Jason)

a different, different perspective: My family wants to pick from charitable gift catalogs this year. There's gonna be some chicks and maybe more 'under the tree' of some poor family if I have any say in the matter.

Happy Holidays, y'all.

parker313
parker313

As far as saving when buying on eBay goes:

Use a site like Ebuyersedge.com to set up saved searches.  You get an e-mail whenever a matching item is newly listed.  Especially good for "Buy It Now"s that are priced right.

Try a misspelling search using a site like Typojoe.com to hopefully find some great deals with items that have main key words misspelled in the title.  Other interested buyers might not ever see them.

If you see an auction that you want to bid on, use a sniping service such as Bidball.com to place your bid for you.  It'll bid in the last few seconds, helping you to save money and avoid shill bidding.

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Go ahead and joke, but these organized crime rings are part of the reason why we have a hard time attracting good stores to East Dallas. They look at Wal-Mart on I-30, for instance, to see the crime stats, and they choose another locatioon.

Guest
Guest

I have no problem with going after organized crime rings, but the Mayor and the D.A. are potentially going overboard and painting perfectly legal transactions as shady/illegal. If this puts a chilling effect on people who aren't breaking any laws, then who's the ultimate loser (both the buyer who could have gotten a better, legal deal and the seller who can't sell an item they want to sell).

Go after criminals. Fine. But don't go after people who are legitimately and legally doing business. Yet, that's what the Mayor and D.A. have promised to do.

(And, honestly, it seems like the police could help the city a lot more just by trying to patrol that single Wal-Mart that's apparently bringing down all sorts of economic development due to their inability to police shoplifters).

Night Rider
Night Rider

I wanna know who the 'vacuum cleaner crime boss' is. I wonder if all the other crime bosses make fun of him? bwahahaha.....This is like an April Fool's joke, only at Christmas, right?

james
james

i do some buyin' an' sellin' on ebay. sometimes it's new unused stuff. i bet my 'seamy' ass is a thousand times more fair/honest with my customers than the mayor or the police chief.

Caleb
Caleb

Hot Items such as Vacuums!

John the Baptist
John the Baptist

What streets are these car that have these trunks with the "reduced priced good", any DSLR camera's, i could use one with a 50% price reduction :P

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

Did the police chief or mayor suggest any guidelines for how real estate developers should handle the delivery of "Christmas cards" to council members in church parking lots? 

cynical old bastard
cynical old bastard

"Rawlings said that Dallas County lost an estimated $20 million in sales tax revenue last year as a result of retail theft."

Where did the Mayor come up with that number?  At 8.25% sales tax $20 million in lost sales tax revenue is retail sales of over $242 million dollars.  That would fill up hundreds of tractor trailer loads, not hundreds of car trunks and vans.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

He asked those people you see on the news who save "hundreds of dollars" on the tax-free weekend right before back to school...

Guest
Guest

And, if we're only taking about the city and county's (and DART) actual share of sales tax revenue (6.25% goes to the state, after all), then we're talking about $1 trillion in retail sales loss.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Isn't $20 million what Suhm was saying flow control was going to contribute each year?

Thelisma Partridge
Thelisma Partridge

Why isn't JWP there to object to the term Black Market as racist?

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

JWP was protesting since not stealing is counter-intuitive to him.

Phelps
Phelps

"Don't buy anything from anyone who doesn't charge you sales tax."

Guest
Guest

Like when buying people's dusty old crap at a garage sale?

MattL1
MattL1

But buying stolen goods from sketchy dealers makes me feel so... ALIVE!

trannyntraining
trannyntraining

Ah, yes! These brave men and women that run our fair city! God bless them all as they steal from your personal coffers, yet do not dare to take from theirs! The bloodhounds are sniffing and hot on y'alls trails. Be careful, now, children...YOUR MASTERS HAVE SPOKEN

Guest
Guest

Not too long ago, I won a Zune in an online contest. Having absolutely no use for a Zune (it was not the prize I had entered the contest to win. It was a far lesser prize), I listed it on Craigslist, and knowing that anything I got for it was profit (and knowing that people who would go to the trouble of buying on Craigslist would want to pay a good deal less than retail price), I offered a very good deal on a brand new, factory sealed Zune.

The lady that bought it rightfully insisted on meeting in a public place (parking lot of Staples) and paid me cash through her car window (effectively buying it out of my trunk).

Nothing illegal about that.

(A friend of mine used to go on all those free iPod sites and would spend hours per day filling out surveys to get free iPods in exchange. When she'd get the iPods, she'd sell them on eBay for about half-to-75% of the retail price.

Also not illegal.

But good to know the police would go after us for those perfectly legal transactions if we were to attempt them now.

Mr Agreeance
Mr Agreeance

yea, I'm not sure how clear the directive is here. What exactly is sketchy? Craigslist and Ebay overall are big contributors toward the efficient distribution of goods and services. Economic theory aligns with the fact that a used cheap vacuum cleaner filling demand allows for the capitalization of other needed goods services, etc. So maybe a little more insight into how to recognize illicit goods. 

Guest
Guest

Obviously, the retailers aren't fond of competition in whatever form (legal or illegal), so if they can enlist the police and district attorney to help them combat illegal competition while also putting a chilling effect on legal competition that uses the same sales channels, then that's a giant win for those retailers.

So, in a way, our tax dollars are going to help retailers pad their margins and protect them from legal competition.

JM
JM

Is Brown saying the South Dallas street shops will be targeted or not? Just need to know b4 I go..

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