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‘We're going to put an end to this epidemic': An inside look at how San Jose police is fighting retail crime

San Jose police detectives said their fight against retail crime is paying off.

The claim comes after the San Jose Police Department was awarded an $8 million grant late last year to fight retail crime.

Police have a specialized unit dedicated only to retail thefts in the city, which the district attorney said is using a unique new law to keep the suspects in jail and throw the book at them.

“All of us should be able to go out with our families and shop, and have lunch, and not be worried that a gang of marauders are going to come running with hammers, breaking glass cases,” Santa Clara County Chief Assistant District Attorney Jay Boyarsky said.

Since December, San Jose police said they have been confronting the retail theft epidemic head on.

NBC Bay Area has previously reported on the foot patrols at South Bay malls thanks to the grant to fight retail theft.

SJPD’s organized retail theft detail includes three officers and a sergeant working overtime shifts. Those teams are backed by detectives — retired officers with decades of experience working part time — solely to connect the dots and put the retail thieves out of business.

“We take it seriously,” said Sgt. Michael Drago, who is part of SJPD’s organized retail theft detail. “Not only for the business owners, but members of the community who are shopping. We will identify you and you will be prosecuted in our county.”

The detectives work with other cities in the Bay Area and are linking suspects to crimes in their communities so they can present a solid case to the district attorney.

The district attorney is using a relatively new law, penal code 490.4, to take down down what they said is a form of organized crime. The DA needs at least two people committing a crime together.

“It’s a unique standalone statute that we have that carries with it at least up to one year in jail,” Boyarsky said. “And depending on the value of the property taken, we can seek a prison sentence as well, and we will.”

Police recently arrested two suspects, Thomas Sapinoso and Jamie Flores, accused of at least 70 retail thefts totaling more than $75,000. Both are still in jail awaiting trail on no bail.

“We’re going to put an end to this epidemic,” Boyarsky said.

On Wednesday, the DA’s full-time lead prosecutor for retail thefts walked through one South Bay mall with San Jose police detectives, who were updating him on their leads.

Solving and stopping these crimes is crucial to the survivability of stores and malls, according to the Strategic Resource Group, a retail consulting firm out of New York.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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