Skip to comments.'Boosting' arrives in Triad malls (organized shoplifting - national epidemic alert)
Posted on 03/23/2004 6:07:04 PM PST by Libloather
'Boosting' arrives in Triad malls
By Russ Rizzo Staff Writer
News & Record
GREENSBORO -- A national epidemic known as "boosting" has reached the Triad, and investigators think they have just scratched the surface of its devastation for retailers.
Boosting, or organized shoplifting, is blamed for a significant portion of the more than $10 billion in merchandise stolen from the nation's retail stores each year. It involves skilled and organized groups of thieves who work together to lift thousands of dollars in goods at a single take.
That's what police believe is behind the $40,000 in stolen merchandise officers recovered from four people in a Greensboro motel last week.
"Basically it's a shoplifting ring, and a very well-organized shoplifting ring," Sgt. Susan Davis said. "There's a possibility that there are connections throughout the state and even throughout the East Coast. We're just now getting started looking into this."
Police have few details of the operation so far because those arrested aren't cooperating, Davis said. What they do know points to boosting, she said.
Stuffed in three laundry bags in a Red Carpet Inn room were jeans, underwear, perfume, hand lotion and other items from retail stores common in most malls, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Express, Limited Too and Victoria's Secret. The amount of merchandise leads investigators to believe the thieves were well-trained.
"There's a good chance that all of this was done in one day," Davis said.
The four people held in the Guilford County jail on one charge each of felony possession of stolen goods checked into the Red Carpet Inn on Thursday morning.
Because of this, investigators believe the four did not spend much time in Greensboro, Davis said.
They were discovered about midnight on Thursday, when an officer was called to the motel about possible drug activity, Davis said.
Police sorted through the loot Monday and linked items to stores in Four Seasons Town Centre in Greensboro, Oak Hallow Mall in High Point and Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem, Davis said.
Police aren't sure who they arrested.
Only one of the four people they arrested early Friday had identification: 25-year-old Jose Manuel Nieves of Greenville, S.C.
The three women with Nieves gave names that police aren't sure are legitimate.
To Davis and others, the investigation is turning up patterns familiar to probes into organized boosting.
"They're trained and they know exactly what to say and what not to say," Sgt. Scott Guginski of the New York Police Department's Organized Theft Task Force told 60 Minutes in a special on boosting last month. "For the most part, you won't even get a name out of them."
Boosting is a growing problem among retail stores, said Rhett Asher, director of industry education for the Retail Industry Leaders Association.
"It's picked up pretty heavily in the past five to eight years. You're seeing it really grow, and it's happening across the board," Asher said. "It's not that uncommon, and it's not that hard. They can hit mall after mall after mall after mall."
Police have no way of counting the number of gangs operating throughout the country, but nothing points to the trend slowing, Asher said.
Often the operation works like this: a team of boosters works together to steal a large amount of merchandise from a store. One thief will block a security camera or look for guards while the others stuff merchandise into bags that are often lined with tin foil to evade electronic alarms. The boosters give the merchandise to a fence, who finds a seller, which can range from a flea market to a private house used as a black-market outlet store.
Three things make these boosters stand out among the typical opportunistic shoplifter: organization, speed and dollar amounts.
"You're just shocked when you see the speed that people can confiscate things out of a store and get away with it," said Arch Embler, community liaison for the Guilford County Sheriff's Department. "People who don't work in law enforcement and don't know what to look for just assume shoplifters work alone. They're very good at what they do."
Embler talks to Greensboro retailers once a month about shoplifting and how to prevent it.
He said this is the first case of organized shoplifting that he has heard of locally.
Greensboro police are working with retailers to figure out where all the merchandise they discovered last week belongs. They also must figure out who else might be involved.
"They're probably the tip of the iceberg," Davis said of the four people arrested Friday. "There's more out there."
Anyone wanna take bets that Jose is an illegal alien? Just doing the jobs Americans are too lazy to do . . .
Spoken like a man who (in all likelihood) has never worked a day of retail in his life.
I spent over twenty-five years in retail management, for both Borders, Streetside Records and Disney; and the retail establishment in this country, believe me, has known all about boosting since (at the absolute latest) the late 1980s.
The single element allowing said retail threat to mutate into as potentially crippling an economic menace as it now has -- all throughout the 1990s, when retailers nationwide were desperately sounding the alarm -- was the stubborn, blinkered refusal of local law enforcement bodies to recognize boosting as a legitimate threat.
I can't even begin to recount how many times I (and fellow retailers of my acquaintance) would frustrate ourselves, again and again and again, in attempting to convince local police that boosting was a real (and growing) threat... only to be told, time and again, that we were just "exaggerating the same penny ante shoplifting kids are always doing in stores like yours, f'chrissakes."
While I'm certainly happy enough to see the police finally (FINALLY!) waking up and smelling the proverbial coffee, on this one: it's a level of awareness, on their respective parts, long, looooonnnnnnnnng overdue in coming.
They steal stuff up there? I thought everything was peaches and Starbucks...