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By Detective Jackie Conn, AKIAC/APD
I am a Detective with the Anchorage Police Department (APD) in Anchorage, Alaska. I started as a patrol officer in January 1997. When I responded to shoplift calls, I started to notice how much information Loss Prevention Officers (LPO) had about theft suspects. I realized this information was not being shared with law enforcement. In September 2007, I became a detective in the Theft Unit. I was told there had been a meeting in the past with Law Enforcement (LE) and LPO's in order to share information and this meeting was organized by a Loss Prevention Manager (LPM) of a local store. After several months of not having a meeting occur, I asked my sergeant if I could start a meeting and he agreed.
On November 13th, 2008 we had our first meeting. The meetings were held monthly to share information about the prolific retail theft suspects that had been identified and also share surveillance pictures of who had not been indentified. I was receiving so much information from LPO's; I ended up mainly having a case load of retail theft cases. I kept stats for the first 3 years, until I transferred out of the Theft Unit. In that time period, I handled over 75 cases of retail theft. In those, over 100 people were arrested with more than 300 criminal charges. Even though I have changed positions at the APD, I still continue to facilitate the LPO and LE partnership. The partnership has proven beneficial to the private retail companies and LE.
The benefits of having an LE and LPO partnership go beyond the arrests for thefts. As many of you know, the people committing retail thefts are often the same people committing other crimes such as robberies, assaults, and homicides. I have been able to use the knowledge I have gained through working with LPO's to help in several of these types of crimes. For example, I was able to help with two homicide cases by informing the case detectives about vehicles and associates of the suspects involved. This information was given to me by LPO's reporting a theft because they had stolen from a store a few days prior to the homicide. In a separate case, I was able to solve a shooting within a few hours of it happening because of prior knowledge I learned through a past retail theft case I investigated.
There are several LPO's I have worked with closely since the first meeting. All of the cases I have investigated with retail theft would not have happened prior to this partnership with LPO and LE. LPO's have also helped us with locating people with outstanding warrants. There are times I send out information about people LE is looking for and when LPO's see the person come into the store, they call APD. In fact, I was told from a source, that they heard some inmates talking about a local store having facial recognition software because every time they walk into the store, they get arrested. They really don't have facial recognition software. We just share information so they can help with finding people with warrants or to know who to watch for a potential theft.
There are many cases we have worked on together, that would have never happened without the partnership we have with LPO and LE. One that comes to mind was a big case started by an LPO with Sportsman's Warehouse. Because he followed up on some information a customer gave him and he passed that information on to me, we eventually ended up seizing well over $10,000 worth of stolen merchandise from the suspect's garage. He was known in his neighborhood for having great garage sales. The neighbors just didn't know it was all stolen property. This had been going on for years and we were able to end it.
At the beginning of our partnership we mostly communicated through the monthly meetings and email. Now we have also added a website for LE and LPO's to share information: Alaska Organized Retail Crime Alliance (AKORCA). Another detective and I help to administer the AKORCA website. This website allows LPO's to notify all AKORCA members regarding an incident immediately and provides a conduit for retailers to communicate directly. We also continue to meet with LPO's quarterly. There are other agencies who often participate in our meeting. Agencies such as the District Attorneys Office, the Municipal Prosecutors Office, Juvenile Justice, banks, and Probation Officers. Usually 20-50 people attend the meetings. The sharing of information is imperative to the success of this partnership. I look forward to continuing this successful partnership and I would recommend a similar partnership to other LE and LPO's.
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