Town hall examines retail theft

Clarke Reader
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Retail theft, can affects a community, and point to other problems. This information was given to some area residents at the December Lakewood legislative town hall.

“A lot of people know about retail theft, but may not know how it trickles down,” said Sen. Cheri Jahn. “We don’t do enough to prevent it.”

Nathan Bandaries, organized retail crime investigator at Safeway, spoke about the crimes, which he describes as “shoplifting on steroids.”

“A person comes into the store with the intent of mass-quantity theft,” he said. “It is often part of a larger crime enterprise, and we very often see the drug trade associated with it.”

Bandaries said that, in some cases, human trafficking and terrorism have been related to organized retail crime.

Consumers can feel the effects of retail crime in price increases, loss of tax revenue, product integrity and health-safety risks.

“Colorado is 22nd in annual tax -revenue losses, with $14.8 million in tax losses,” Bandaries said.

Professional thieves who participate in retail theft are called “boosters,” and fall into three levels: level one includes people who work alone; level two includes people who work with a few others in loose groups; and level three includes structured groups that are associated with larger crime rings.

“Retail theft is often a gateway crime and can lead to larger problems,” Bandaries said.

Residents asked about the role of geography in relation to where thefts occur, how thieves get out of stores and deterrents.

“Thieves are smart and take advantage of all of us,” said Detective Eric Frederic, organized retail crime investigator from Colorado Springs. “There are a lot of problems with jurisdiction in different areas.”

One thing the Legislature could look at in this area, Jahn said, is creating a task force to focus on the issue. She said the Legislature could also consider enhanced punishments for repeat offenders.

At meeting’s end, Jahn said that meeting like this are how the ideas for bills are born.

“This is how the legislative process works,” she said. “I’m glad you were all here, because I really want everyone to see how this works.”

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