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CMPD says shoplifters responsible for more than $800K worth of stolen merchandise

Updated: Nov. 13, 2019 at 6:50 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Many people might think of a shoplifter and think it’s a bored teenager looking for a thrill, but Charlotte Mecklenburg Police say there are professional criminals out there targeting businesses across the Charlotte area and causing major problems for business.

At a Wednesday press conference, CMPD discussed a few cases of the 825 retail theft cases just this year. In January they created a task force dedicated to solving these crimes which are usually committed by professional and organized criminals.

So far, the task force recovered more than $80,000 worth of stolen property, but $884,000 is the full amount of merchandise that has been stolen so far this year.

“As the Organized Retail Crime Task Force, we’re going to hold people accountable for their actions,” said Sgt. Jeff Brown with CMPD. “When you look at the businesses, your sons, daughters, fathers, mothers could be working at these stores.”

Of the arrests they’ve made so far, police say many of the people are professionals and go into the stores with a plan to steal as much merchandise before police get there. They then usually see the products online or on social media to unsuspecting shoppers.

“They’re not going in and stealing a candy bar,” Brown said. “We’re seeing thefts of upwards of $1,000. I’ve seen a couple of $15,000-$20,000.”

And police warn some of these people have dangerous pasts. CMPD sent out a media release detailing some of the cases.

  • Michael Welburn, 54, is a habitual felon and was charged in 11 shoplifting-related cases. He has prior, violent offenses which include armed robbery, common law robbery, and kidnapping.
  • Gregg Millner, 44, has been charged in a number of cases related to shoplifting and include felony larceny, common law robbery, armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery. He has previously been charged with armed robbery, breaking and entering, and indecent exposure.

But this isn’t a crime that just affects big box stores and chains. Shoplifters target all types of stores, including local boutiques.

“It’s the worst,” Hope Nicholls said who owns the Boris and Natasha boutique in Plaza Midwood. “It’s like any other crime. It’s a violation, it makes you sad.”

Although the thefts out of smaller stores can seem inconsequential, owners say it makes a big impact.

“Anybody who runs a business, if you lose merchandise, that’s money you’d pay your employees, that’s something you’d pay your water bill with," Nicholls said.

Police say if you witness a shoplifting crime as a customer or as an employee, don’t try and intervene. Instead be a good witness and remember details about what the person looked like so police can be the ones to track them down.

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