Nov 25, 2013 8:09 PM by Lupita Murillo
TUCSON - Tucson Police is conducting special deployments to lower the number of thefts in convenience stores. It's called "Convenience Store Crimes Project."
News 4 Tucson Crimetracker Investigator, Lupita Murillo was given unprecedented access to ride along with officers as they crack down on thefts. She spent time with the Community Response Team in Midtown, or Team 3.
On this day the officers are conducting surveillance on the convenience store with the highest report of shoplifting incidents at Speedway near Country Club. As the officers set up to do surveillance, one officer notices a woman sitting in a car in the parking lot getting ready to smoke heroin.
Sgt. Troy Perrin heads the CRT unit, he says, there were four people in the vehicle that turns out to be stolen out of Oro Valley. He goes on to say, " Three of the four have misdemeanor warrants for their arrest. One of them is a person of interest in an ongoing burglary investigation."
The officers go through the vehicle, dusting for fingerprints. They find black tar heroin. As officers go through the vehicle in the parking lot, customers are coming in and out of the store. Hector Avila tells News 4 Investigators, "Drugs are a big problem and I'm glad they're (Tucson Police) getting rid of those drugs. Drugs kill people."
Police say all four are facing drug charges.
On another day, the unit witnesses a drug deal at another midtown store. Officers find a bag of marijuana on the seat. The driver, is wanted on a suspended license . Sgt. Perrin says, "This was the second time his vehicle had been impounded for driving on a suspended license." Officers also find drug paraphernalia including price lists and records of drug transactions inside the vehicle.
The suspect is patted down and taken to the Pima County Jail where he'll be charged with possessing and selling drugs. Sgt. Perrin says, "That's what we're seeing, is the drugs, it doesn't mean the thefts aren't occurring we aren't seeing them as easily."
With nearly 40 convenience stores and only one squad of these specially assigned officers, it makes it challenging to catch the thieves. Sgt. Perrin adds, "We're trying to combat the larceny issue which is a growing problem but we're not going to turn a blind eye to other issues that we see."
Late Monday afternoon Tucson Police produced the latest numbers. In October, they had a record number of nearly 1,500 reported thefts. Since the TPD started their crackdown, those numbers have gone down to 671.
If you have a story for News 4 investigators email crimetrackers @kvoa.com