ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE)  New Mexico’s Attorney General’s office believes shoplifters are using the public bus system as their get-away vehicles. Attorney General Hector Balderas says stopping shoplifters and other organized crime rings has become a mission, but he says the criminals are only getting more brazen. “Organized retail crime is now spilling into our public bus systems, and it’s now spilling into some of our local rural neighborhoods,” says Balderas.

Surveillance video from an Albuquerque city bus shows a group of people boarding at a stop along Coors. Each person boarding the bus can be seen loaded up with suitcases and bags, and one man even holding what looks like a kitchen-aid mixer.

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The Attorney General believes the shoplifters are taking the merchandise, including power tools, electronics, and expensive kitchen appliances, then using the city buses as their get-away vehicle. The Attorney General believes the problem started when the city of Albuquerque waived bus fares at the beginning of the year. “I think that the no fee for riders seemed like a well-intentioned policy, but there has to be safety requirements in other words, you can’t just let everyone on the bus with stolen equipment.”

After they get off the bus, investigators believe they’re dropping off all the stolen items at a house on the west side. “What’s occurring is that you have major drug dealers sending out armies of shoplifters into these retail centers, and they’re stealing these goods and exchanging them for fentanyl and other drugs,” said Balderas.

The Attorney General says it’s up to city councilors to re-think policies in order to keep the public safe. “I’m very concerned for families and the elderly that are doing no criminal activity but now have to defend themselves. That can be a very tragic scenario for citizens of Albuquerque,” said Balderas.

Balderas says some of those precautions need to include protecting bus drivers who are faced with this kind of behavior daily, just like the surveillance video shows with one driver. “I’m going to start calling 311 every night and complain, complain, complain and complain about the … smoking the fentanyl.”

None of the suspects on the bus have been charged. The man living at the house where the stolen items were found faces drug charges.