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N.M. Police, Retailers Partner to Share Information

When it comes to retail crime, offenders aren't the only ones networking.

Albuquerque police work closely with retailers through the Albuquerque Retail Assets Protection Association, a public-private partnership that allows members to pinpoint local organized retail crime trends and specific offenders.

When a thief hit a few area stores and used the same gun-flashing technique to walk out with stolen TVs, Cmdr. William Roseman said information was quickly shared within the group so that retailers and law enforcement alike knew what to look for.

Police won't say exactly how large ARAPA's membership is but say partners do include megaretailers Target and Wal-Mart, as well as most shopping-mall tenants and many locally owned businesses.

"In addition to increasing awareness and understanding of organized retail crime and its impact, the true benefit of this partnership is the exchange of information between retailers and law enforcement to identify and arrest suspects," said Target spokeswoman Erika Winkels.

The award-winning partnership helped spawn APD's organized crime unit, a five-member team that pursues the leads generated through ARAPA.

"As opposed to filing just an ordinary police report that may take three-four days to go through the system, they know and are comfortable enough to call us and know we'll immediately respond to it," said Sgt. Mizel Garcia, the sergeant in charge of the unit.

APD Chief Ray Schultz said it's not uncommon to find that ORC offenders are involved in other criminal activity, whether it's drugs or residential burglaries.

Police and even Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry have taken the partnership further by going to court with retailers.

Consumers can help solve the problem, too, Berry said. "We're just asking folks before you buy ... (online) for pennies on the dollar you may want to ask yourself the question: 'Is this the best thing for our community for me to do this?'"

Copyright 2013 - Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service