Police departments in Collin County are working to prevent shoplifting through an initiative called Santa’s Theft Operation Plan, or STOP.
Prosper police are spearheading the operation alongside the Collin County Sheriff’s Office and the police departments of Little Elm, McKinney, and Plano, as reported by WFAA. The new STOP program aims to connect asset managers from big box stores with undercover police officers.
The operation involves police officers waiting in unmarked cars in the parking lot of retail outlets who communicate with managers inside the stores using a walkie-talkie app called Zello.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, shoplifting has been a growing problem in parts of Dallas proper. Citywide, there have been 2,354 offenses documented by the Dallas Police Department so far this year, an alarming 56.6% increase over the 1,503 offenses logged during the same period last year.
One factor likely contributing to the big spike in shoplifting could be DPD’s staffing shortage. The department has had a force of fewer than 3,200 officers over the last couple of years, even though a City analysis previously recommended that DPD needs upwards of 4,000 officers to properly maintain public safety.
Downtown Dallas has been especially affected, logging considerably more criminal activity than Fort Worth’s downtown area. Fort Worth’s city center is reportedly patrolled by a special neighborhood police unit that works alongside private security guards.
Last Friday, STOP led to nine shoplifters being arrested at the Gates of Prosper shopping mall. More than 60 people, including both retail workers and police, were involved in the operation.
“We use an app to communicate back and forth [in] real-time, hoping they can give us some good descriptors on shoplifters,” said Det. Seth Cockerham, per WFAA.
“As soon as someone starts to give us a description, we start making our way to that area and wait for them to come out,” he continued. “As soon as they hit that exit door, we’re on them.”
Cockerham added that shoplifters are becoming more sophisticated and often override security equipment.
“Some people will use the [maternity] belly bands,” he said. “They’ll shove shoes and all kinds of things and put their shirt right over it.”
Suspects were reportedly charged with theft, evading arrest with a vehicle, unlawful use of a criminal instrument, possession of a controlled substance, and multiple criminal trespass warnings.
Roughly $4,000 in property was recovered in last week’s operation, with more scheduled to take place throughout the holidays.
The Dallas Express contacted the Prosper Police Department for more information but did not receive a response by press time.