Maricopa County Attorney launches new campaign to combat organized retail crime

The Safe Shopping campaign is meant to fight organized retail theft with the public’s help.
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 12:23 PM MST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2023 at 2:06 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Maricopa County’s top prosecutor is launching a new campaign to fight organized retail theft with the public’s help.

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell unveiled the new “Safe Shopping” campaign on Wednesday afternoon. It asks shoppers to stay alert and report theft to police but not engage with thieves for their own safety. The Organized Retail Crime website shows criminals who have been convicted in notable cases and has video blogs from Mitchell. The new system is an extension of Mitchell’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force, previously created in July 2022.

“This is not the same thing as shoplifting,” said Mitchell. “This issue affects you, it affects all of us. Whether you’re being inconvenienced when you go to buy a necessity like toothpaste, pain relievers, batteries and it’s locked away. Or when you see a price increase on the products you buy. This crime is affecting all of us.”

Mitchell was joined by Fry’s Food Store President Monica J. Garnes and Michelle Ahlmer of the Arizona Retailers Association at the event, which was held at the Starbucks inside Fry’s Food Store near 7th Avenue and Camelback Road.

“We have been successfully putting these criminal groups behind bars. For example, there was the man who stole more than $75,000 in cigarettes from one convenience store chain. He is now in prison. Just last week, we indicted two California women who stole thousands in merchandise from twelve retailers in six cities in Maricopa County,” Mitchell said in a statement. “Here’s what I say to the thieves who commit these crimes: we will find you, you will be arrested, and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

The county attorney says her office has seen retail theft crimes in different types of shops across the Valley, including grocery and home improvement stores. While Phoenix has seen numerous cases, Mitchell says it isn’t to the degree of other states, such as California. “We are seeing trends of people coming here from other states,” she said. “We’ve seen baby formula, diapers, detergent, batteries, power tools, generators, just anything. Anything that’s going to bring a profit on resale.”

Mitchell has previously made her stance clear on retail theft. In August, Phoenix police led a three-day operation targeting organized retail crime around the Valley, leading to 60 arrests. In October, a 34-year-old Phoenix man was indicted on 20 counts of organized retail theft for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars worth of cosmetics from Ulta Beauty and Sephora stores over a 15-month period.

In 2022, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office received 301 reports of organized retail theft cases from Valley police departments.

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