Shoplifting. No big deal, right?
Don’t say that around Det. Jerry Davis.
The Mesa Police Department detective specializes in busting big-ticket shoplifters.
He stresses two reasons people should be concerned about shoplifting.
For one, “It hurts everyone. When people steal stuff, prices go up,” the mild-mannered Davis said.
But there’s a second reason police are on the alert for the snatch-and-run crowd.
“It’s a ‘gateway crime.’ It’s a running joke in the office,” Davis said. “When we catch someone and run their (criminal) history, they can be involved with so many things—but almost always, shoplifting was the first crime.”
If a kid steals a pack of gum or an elderly man walks out of a store forgetting to pay for a newspaper, Davis won’t get involved.
But when Target, Walmart and other big stores call about repeat offenders, Davis starts digging.
For example, consider what can be called “The Musical Bonnie and Clyde.”
A woman would go into a music store, grab a guitar and dash out, with a male at the wheel. Within hours, she would sell it in a pawn shop.
After four or five similar crimes, surveillance video showed a license plate on the couple’s vehicle. Davis tracked them to a Tempe motel.
“They confessed, right away,” Davis said.
The couple, in their early 20s, said they stole to support a drug habit.
Drugs are “almost always” the motives for his shoplifters, Davis said. “I would say 95 percent of the time.”
Davis has been with the Mesa PD for 16 years, the last five as a detective.
This week, the Arizona Retailers Association’s Loss Prevention Committee named Davis Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award.
“This year, Det. Davis participated in a joint effort with retail loss prevention personnel to apprehend and ultimately arrest multiple criminals committing organized retail theft in Arizona retail stores,” an ARA press release said.
Davis said the committee praised him for his work in arresting a woman who figured out how to scam “scan-and-go” self-serve machines – ripping off nearly $1 million in goods. Her spree started at a Walmart near South Stapley Drive and East Baseline Road.
After getting a description of the woman, Davis used police software to run a search.
“Luckily, she was a prolific shoplifter in California,” he said with a smile.
He was able to track down the woman and arrest her.
Was she involved in drugs?
“Yes,” Davis said, with a sigh. “Of course.”