ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – “Horrendous.” That’s how the Bernalillo District Attorney, Sam Bregman, describes the continued level of retail crime in Albuquerque. As more big-box stores close up shop, the DA is promising “swift” consequences for suspects facing charges. “It’s always frustrating, disappointing that you hear that a store or business that is well-liked in a neighborhood is leaving,” Bregman said.
The DA’s comment comes after a recent meeting with rank-and-file workers at Target. One of the biggest concerns raised is how long has it taken to prosecute shoplifting cases in the past. In less than a year, Albuquerque’s Walmart on San Mateo, the Uptown Kohl’s, and soon a Walgreens at Central and San Mateo shutting their doors for good.
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Though stores won’t say it directly, the closures have happened in areas where police have seen a lot of retail crime. “It’s not only so destructive for big business, like Target, but for the small mom-and-pop stores as well, for the small businesses out there,” explained Bregman.
During the recent meeting, Target employees discussed, in part, what more can be done to better deter shoplifters. “We discussed ways we could speed up the process, not speed up justice, in the sense that we don’t want to cut any corners,” said Bregman.
The DA believes the new policy is helping. His prosecutors have taken over all misdemeanor shoplifting cases, instead of police officers- and they’ve filed a lot of cases. “Now we have prosecutors, 14 of them in metropolitan court, who are prosecuting misdemeanor shoplifting cases. That’s a big thing. We’ve already filed 70 of those cases since September 1,” he said.
That new policy, brought forward by the governor, is helping crack down on repeat shoplifters. Prosecutors can now combine 90 days worth of shoplifting cases from the same person, into one single case: potentially bringing felony charges.
Bregman said that law has now led to over 30 felony shoplifting cases being filed in about the last 40 days. “If they’re a repeat shoplifter they’re going to be held accountable and we’re going to ask for jail time,” Bregman added.