DC police launch undercover initiative to tackle rising retail crimes

D.C. police are cracking down on retail crimes, sending a warning to criminals with a new initiative.

Many of us have walked into CVS, Target, or drug stores in the District to see products behind lock and key - deodorants, detergents, makeup, and more.

For workers and customers alike, it's been a frustrating trend.

"The entire pharmaceutical, health, and beauty section is locked up," said Angela Malone, a D.C. resident. "It's inconvenient. It's one of those sayings, 'This is why we can't have nice things.'"


CVS store shelves bare as thieves in DC plan robberies around delivery times, workers say

The shelves are mostly bare at a CVS store in D.C.'s Columbia Heights neighborhood and people who live in the area are concerned.

This is why D.C. Police are trying to be proactive now. They're teaming up with retail stores, and posing undercover to crack down on the crimes and catch thieves in the act. 

Investigators told FOX 5 that in the last few months, they have made dozens of arrests; many of them, repeat offenders.

Some of the items that were stolen and recovered can be seen in photos:  candy, chips, toothbrushes, and shampoos.

A lot of these stolen items are then resold on street corners.

"I think it is sad that we have to do something like that, but they're trying to protect their investment, which I understand," Malone said. "I just wish we could all have respect for one another, the hard work the employees are trying to do in there."

Back in February, FOX 5 reported about the CVS store in Columbia Heights shutting its doors, citing retail thefts.

Video showed aisles and aisles of empty shelves after shoplifters ransacked the place over and over again.

Colin Hall is the First District commander for D.C. Police.

In an exclusive interview with FOX 5, Hall said closures like that hurt the community because people can't get hygiene products or medications as close as they could.

And he said he hopes this crackdown sends a strong message.

"We reduce the thefts in these places where it's really a deterrent. People don't think they can just come in and steal things off the shelves and walk out and there's going to be no repercussions," Hall said.

Hall said they will be doing these undercover operations every week throughout the city.

"It's been very successful. We've arrested dozens of people doing this. We've gotten drugs off the streets by doing this, we've even gotten a couple of firearms as well," Hall explained.

When we asked Hall what he would say to people living in the District who feel there may be more serious crimes to focus on - he said they can do both, they are doing both - and these thefts are serious crimes in their eyes.

"This is just one piece of the puzzle and like I was saying, we do apprehend people who have firearms, so by doing this, we're able to connect other crimes people that are wanted for like robberies," Hall said.

In the last month, records show the D.C. U.S. Attorney's Office has indicted seven people for CVS thefts; all of them facing felony charges. 

They range in age from 26 to 64 years old.