February may be the shortest month, but it’s been long on retail crime, highlighted by Lululemon being hit hard in two episodes, eight days and 542 miles apart; and in Memphis, which has become one of the nation’s hotbed of smash-and-grab thefts, a Nike warehouse was robbed of as many as 20 boxes of Air Jordan sneakers.
But law enforcement has scored its share of victories, too, particularly in Oakland, Calif., where more than $1 million in merchandise was recovered, while across the coast, private K-9 patrols are hitting the streets to help curb rampant shoplifting in Manhattan, and authorities in Pennsylvania were able to finally track down a shoplifter who allegedly stole high-end fashion items on three separate days in 2021.
Criminals targeted a Lululemon store in the Detroit suburb of Birmingham on Feb. 20 and the next day in Washington D.C., where thieves shattered the glass entry and made off with 16 joggers, 16 pairs of pants and five jackets that held a total value of $4,340, according to WJIA TV.
That incident was dwarfed by the effort in Michigan eight days earlier where a man was arrested for stealing about $6,000 in merchandise from a Lululemon store and taking it off-site to a building holding $41,000 worth of stolen clothing. According to Birmingham Police Department, 27-year-old David Malik Roberts was arrested on three charges, including felony identity theft and felony retail fraud, alleging him to be part of an organized retail crime ring that police claim has jacked more than $140,000 in merchandise.
Meanwhile, in the Philadelphia, a series of thefts from 2021 culminated in the Feb. 15 arrest of a 31-year-old woman, who allegedly wore different wigs to steal high-end clothing at six different Greenwich, Pa. locations including three pairs of Bottega Veneta shoes valued at $3,535. Greenwich Time, citing police documents, reported that on July 23, 2021, Rachelle Banks stole the shoes from The RealReal and stuffed them into her sweatshirt, then snatched sandals and a wallet from Hermes for another $4,130 in booty and got away in a 2013 Nissan Ultima. Eyewitnesses reported the car’s license plate number, but, Greenwich Time reports, the suspect paid cash for the car and it wasn’t registered in her name making it difficult to track her.
Six weeks later, Banks was allegedly back at it, snagging a $695 Alexander Wang purse from a mannequin, and then a pair of $925 Loro Piana pants from another store. Three weeks later she allegedly walked out of a dressing room at Saks with a $415 Celine T-shirt underneath hers, and later on Sept. 23, she ducked into another store at closing time and snatching a Balmain leather bag worth $3,200, the Time reports.
All this brought her alleged total thievery to $12,900.
Banks, whom police say is part of a small ORC ring, was finally arrested Wednesday and faces five burglary-related charges.
A brazen, light-of-day theft at a Nike warehouse in Memphis was recorded by staff and so far, has received nearly 4 million views. The video shows two men with hooded sweatshirts walking onto a worksite and throwing large boxes containing Air Jordan shoes into the delivery truck they backed up to the dock. Workers can be seen engaging physically with the criminals, who nonetheless managed to make off with between 10 and 20 of the boxes.
In September 2022, more than $800,000 in Nike merchandise was stolen from a distribution center in Memphis when thieves broke into more than 20 trailers.
In Northern California, authorities recovered more than $1 million in merchandise, all stemming from tailing a suspect who had stolen $1,500 from an Ulta Beauty store, back to the fenced operation, according to the Dublin Police Department. Along with the merchandise, police along with the California Highway Patrol’s Organized Retail Crime Unit also recovered a ghost gun.
And in New York, dogs are now being used to deter shoplifting in Manhattan’s busy midtown area.
According to the New York Post, the 34th Street Partnership, a neighborhood commerce organization, has hired Stapleton Security Services to patrol nearby areas—particularly drug stores—with dogs.
The dogs do not participate in any arrests or interaction with customers, but are positioned at the front door with a guard and an official-looking black vest that reads “Do Not Pet.”
Apparently, the security theater is working in its early days as the 34th Street Partnership reports that from Feb. 15-19 the K-9 patrols prevented at least 25 thefts.
“It’s effective so far,” Kevin Ward, vice president of security for the Partnership, told the Post. “We’ve had a couple of people who were known shoplifters who saw the dog and walked out without stealing anything.”