Anchorage police are hailing several arrests in a sweep at a south Anchorage department store as a first step in fighting a local trend of increasingly violent shoplifting.

The department’s recently formed Investigative Support Unit netted six theft arrests involving more than $1,100 in goods as it worked with Asset Protection staff at the Fred Meyer department store on Abbott Road, according to an APD statement Friday.

“One individual, Patricia Abell, pushed a cart containing $551.85 worth of goods out of the store and was contacted by ISU and Asset Protection,” Thim wrote. “Another individual, William Rosario, removed $149.97 worth of merchandise from the store and ran on foot when contacted by ISU and Asset Protection.”

Police Capt. Kevin Vandegriff, head of APD’s Crime Suppression Division, said Friday that the initiative was a response to local stores’ complaints that shoplifters are more frequently employing violence.

“They noticed that the level of violence they were willing to use was increasing as well,” Vandegriff said. “We’ve had loss-prevention officers having knives pulled on them and guns pulled on them.”

Vandegriff said the tactics APD adopted at Fred Meyer, known as a “retail blitz” in Lower 48 law-enforcement, involve conducting undercover stings which allow police to take part in loss-prevention investigations. At Fred Meyer, the entire ISU staff – eight officers and a sergeant – spent a day countering shoplifting cases at the Abbott Road store.

“We initiated the very first one in Anchorage, and to my knowledge it’s the first time in Alaska we’ve engaged in one of these partnerships,” Vandegriff said.

As APD works on plans to partner with other stores which have suffered similar incidents, Vandegriff issued a warning to local thieves.

“If you plan to use any kind of force or violence when engaging in shoplifting, the Anchorage Police Department’s going to hold you accountable for it,” Vandegriff said.

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