A man fed up with the crime in the city confronted someone he said was a shoplifter in action.
Weeks later, he believes he saw the same woman featured on Albuquerque Police’s Crime of the Week and police think he’s right.
The man, who wants to stay anonymous, said he was shopping at Smith’s at Paseo del Norte and Wyoming in February when he saw a shoplifter and confronted her.
“Ma’am? Can you take that out of your bag?” he’s heard asking in his cell phone video of the incident. “Open up your bag.”
“I put a freaking body wash in my freaking-” the woman explained.
“Yeah, in your bag. Take it out,” he responded.
He followed her as she left the store, then went to find a police officer next door at the Dion’s when he said he saw the woman approach someone else by a vehicle.
“She was with somebody else who had a basket full of items: a couple of totes full of miscellaneous things and she was shoving it into the trunk of the car.”
He said he captured video of the license plate as she tried to get away in a big hurry. He said she had three kids in the back seat.
The KRQE News 13 viewer sent in the video he shot after he said he saw a Crime of the Week segment showing a woman stealing makeup from an Ulta store in the Northeast Heights.
He thought of the woman he captured on his phone a month earlier.
Police also see the likeness.
“It’s definitely the same person,” APD Officer Simon Drobik said. “It’s the offender we’re looking for from previous shoplifting calls and obviously she’s up to her old habits and she seems to be terrorizing the town, ripping people off and this seems to be her full-time job.”
However, police don’t necessarily agree with the man’s approach.
“Don’t go after these guys,” Drobik said. “They may be stealing something petty but they’re going to turn into a violent offender if they’re cornered.”
Other locals said they’d leave their phones in their pockets in a similar situation.
“It’s just too risky in this area,” Brendan Burke, of Albuquerque, said. “I wouldn’t talk to them. I might let security know but beyond that, I wouldn’t do anything.”
Even the man who took the video is having some second thoughts.
“Observing and reporting — there’s nothing wrong with that. Intervening — there is an issue with that,” he said. “Every day I see crime in my professional career and fortunately I’m put in a position where I can intervene… We always share stories of how frequent it happens [and] how brazen the criminals are.”
Drobik said most big box stores have loss prevention officers. Shoplifters who get caught will get taken to the loss prevention office and ticketed or arrested. Drobik said they’ll oftentimes get a criminal trespass violation notice, meaning they can’t go back to that store or chain.
“But these guys continuously break those rules,” Drobik added. “They’ll go into those stores because they’re professional shoplifters and that’s how they make their living.”
The man who took the video said he believes the woman stole more than $500 worth of merchandise from the Smith’s. He didn’t turn on his camera until after she had put it all in her bag.
There was a second woman featured in that Crime of the Week involving the makeup thieves. Police believe they’ve identified her.
Anyone with information about the other shoplifting suspect believed to be seen in the Crime of the Week photos and cell phone video is urged to call 843-STOP.