Visalia police on lookout for retail thieves this holiday shopping season

Even though Black Friday is still a week away, holiday shopping is in full swing. With an increase in foot traffic at local retailers, comes an increase in theft −petty and grand.

Throughout the holiday shopping season, Visalia property crimes detectives and law enforcement officers statewide will be on the lookout for these criminals.

On Wednesday, Visalia detectives worked a retail detail that focused on theft groups known to target businesses on Mooney Boulevard. During the detail, detectives responded to Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Police say three people were caught leaving the store with more than $3,000 dollars of stolen merchandise. Officers say that Marcus Castaneda, 39, left the business with the items, but Crystal Morfin-Magana, 28, and Jazmarie Hernandez, 28, were also involved. All three were booked into the Tulare County Pretrial Facility on various theft charges.

The suspects aren't from the area and traveled to Visalia to steal from businesses, Sgt. Clay Moffett said.

"The Property Crimes Unit will continue to work special details throughout the holiday season and target individuals committing retail thefts at our local businesses," Moffett stated.

A recent spike in organized retail crime has caused concern among law enforcement and retail industry leaders, as these crimes impact the economy and local communities. In 2019, as much as $68.9 billion worth of products were stolen from retailers, according to a 2021 Buy Safe America report.

This month, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced statewide efforts to tackle organized retail theft ahead of the holiday season. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) Organized Retail Crime Task Force (ORCTF) will be at shopping centers throughout the state.

The task force will focus on making arrests and increase law enforcement's visibility. Since ORCTF was established, CHP has been involved in 1,296 investigations, 645 arrests, and the recovery of 271,697 items of stolen retail merchandise valued at nearly $26 million, according to state officials.

“Californians deserve to feel safe especially as they head to stores this holiday season,” Newsom said. “We’ve doubled down on our efforts to combat crime with millions of dollars to deter, arrest and successfully prosecute criminals involved in organized retail theft.”

Additionally, Newsom signed into law legislation that makes it harder for people to sell stolen merchandise online.

"The lack of transparency online has made it easy to hide behind a screen name and fake business information to peddle stolen products," said Michael Hanson, with Retail Industry Leaders Association. "Washington needs to establish a base level of transparency on e-commerce platforms to make it harder for criminal enterprises to operate in the shadows of the Internet."

This article originally appeared on Visalia Times-Delta: Police on lookout for retail thieves this holiday shopping season