Thieves target Gilroy outlets

On the biggest shopping day of the year, Gilroy’s Premium
Outlets are solidifying as prime targets for thieves throughout the
Bay Area, attracting veteran shoplifters from as far as Oakland,
according to police.
GILROY – On the biggest shopping day of the year, Gilroy’s Premium Outlets are solidifying as prime targets for thieves throughout the Bay Area, attracting veteran shoplifters from as far as Oakland, according to police.

Thanks to the corporate policies of several of the outlets’ 145 stores to not prosecute people caught shoplifting, Gilroy’s sales-tax gorilla is becoming a helpless sheep to preying criminals – wasting valuable police resources in the process, Deputy District Attorney Frank Carrubba said.

“We’ve caught several people shoplifting at the outlets possessing large quantities of stolen goods who are from the Oakland area,” said Lanny Brown, assistant chief of the Gilroy Police Department. “From talking to these people it’s apparent that the word has gotten out all over that the outlets are easy pickings because many of the businesses don’t prosecute. Why wouldn’t you go there, too, if you wanted to steal?”

In an effort to eliminate the Premium Outlets’ spreading reputation as an easy target, Carrubba has called a Dec. 4 meeting with outlet administrators, security heads and managers from every outlet store to discuss the ramifications of non-prosecution policies. Carrubba will also inform store managers of the district attorney’s new policy to prosecute shoplifters unconditionally, according to comments he made at meeting with city and police officials Friday.

“When stores don’t prosecute and have police come out just for insurance purposes, it burns us all,” Gilroy Mayor Tom Springer said. “Now the DA is saying you don’t get a choice – I like it. Now the stores got to get their act together.”

It is not known what percentage of the 145 outlet stores practice non-prosecution policies, but Brown said although the majority of stores cooperate with the DA, there are at least a handful of “big-name” stores that have made the GPD’s list for repeatedly letting shoplifters walk.

In 2000, the GPD logged 31 shoplifting attempts at the outlets, compared to 47 at nearby Wal-Mart – which prosecutes shoplifters – and 18 at the Home Depot, which also prosecutes. Although Wal-Mart recorded more incidents of shoplifting, 31 percent of the thefts at the outlet mall were for more than $400. None of the Wal-Mart thefts reached that figure. Statistics for 2001 were not available.

Gilroy Premium Outlets General Manager Jane Nu’ez would not comment, but did say that she will be at the Dec. 4 meeting.

Brown explained that much of the current problem stems from a lack of communication between outlet store managers and their corporate headquarters.

“I think many of the stores here are tied to national and international policy,” Brown said. “They don’t want their employees to chase thieves into the parking lot or try to stop them, and that’s a good policy. But I think in a lot of situations there is a misinterpretation and the managers take this policy too far by failing to prosecute once (the police) have made contact with the suspect.”

The situation that unfolds in many of the shoplifting cases is that a store employee unfamiliar with corporate policy will call the police to report a theft, and police respond and apprehend the suspect. Store managers then take back the stolen property while the suspect is in custody, before citing corporate policy and declining to file charges.

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