Maricopa County Attorney’s Office looks to crack down on retail theft with new team

Jul 21, 2022, 4:45 AM
(KTAR News Photo/Taylor Tasler-Oatley)...
(KTAR News Photo/Taylor Tasler-Oatley)
(KTAR News Photo/Taylor Tasler-Oatley)

PHOENIX — The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is looking to crack down on retail theft after Arizona and surrounding states saw an increase.

Interim County Attorney Rachel Mitchell announced in a press conference on Wednesday that she is creating an organized retail theft team, comprised of multiple prosecutors and an investigator to coordinate with local business owners and law enforcement to ensure successful prosecution of these crimes.

“The people who are coming here from other states, such as California, specifically Los Angeles or Las Vegas or Albuquerque, you need to understand if you come here and commit these crimes, plan to stay a little bit longer than you thought you would,” she said. “We are not going to tolerate that here.”

Mitchell said the Los Angeles District Attorney will not prosecute retail theft below $1000, but she said that is not the case for Maricopa County.

“There will be no threshold set below which we won’t prosecute,” Mitchell said. “We will also not be asking for them to be released without bond, we’ll be asking that they be held on bond.”

This comes after two armed individuals went into a jewelry store in Anthem and allegedly robbed it last week.

Mitchell said these crimes have moved beyond shoplifting and have become an organized crime.

She explains people are stealing mass amounts from stores and then selling it for profit.

Mitchell stressed that these crimes are directly affecting Arizonans.

“The economic impact of retail crime in Arizona resulted in over $766 million in lost wages and 14,297 lost jobs,” she said.

Mitchell added she’s making this a priority for her office to try and help curb the crime before it gets any worse.

Retail leaders also attended the press conference and spoke firsthand about what they’ve experienced.

Michelle Ahlmer, the executive director of the Arizona Retailers Association, said they started to see an increase in crimes during the pandemic and its also become more aggressive.

“Even if it’s not an armed robbery, it is violent to the extent that there is physical altercations,” Ahlmer said. “We’ve had knives, we’ve had guns, we’ve had bear spray.”

Ahlmer said she’s also noticed the crimes becoming more organized.

“This is an organization that either recruits and then they train, or they take advantage of, I should say, disadvantaged people,” she said. “Drug addicts, homeless, they’ll hire them for the day.”

Alhmer claims these people come into the stores already knowing what to steal and how much they’ll get paid for the job.

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Maricopa County Attorney’s Office looks to crack down on retail theft with new team