Tulsa, Okla. police say theft of beer, energy drinks from c-stores an 'epidemic'

Authorities concerned thefts could lead to more violent crimes


Jan. 20--James Davis Richard made a habit of walking into area QuikTrip convenience stores and stealing cases of beer and cans of energy drinks, officials allege in his arrest report.

Using video surveillance camera footage from recent robberies, Tulsa County sheriff's deputies arrested Davis on Jan. 15 on nearly a dozen complaints of larceny from a retailer.

Investigators believe that Davis, 50, was directly responsible for as many as 11 "beer run" thefts at various QuikTrip stores since December.

He is accused of stealing $843 worth of beer and Red Bull from the QuikTrip at 4705 S. 129th East Ave. on Jan. 14, according to his arrest report.

But law enforcement officials say he's not the only one doing this, and they consider the wave of thefts "an epidemic," according to Tulsa County Sheriff's Maj. Shannon Clark.

"If someone is willing to steal beer and energy drinks from a QuikTrip in front of everybody, how far are they willing to go?" Clark asked.

Authorities are also concerned that such brazen acts could lead to more violent crimes, such as armed robberies and home invasions.

"It's a scary thought for law enforcement officials," Clark said.

QuikTrip spokesman Mike Thornbrugh said the Tulsa-based company noticed an abnormal spike in larcenies at local stores about three months ago and contacted the Tulsa Police Department and the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office to investigate.

Authorities discovered that individuals were working with organized groups to steal merchandize from QuikTrip that would be later sold for profit at other retailers.

Clark said QuikTrip is an attractive target for thieves because the stores are usually filled with customers, which makes it difficult for employees to catch thieves in the act.

They think beer is "free and available," he said. "And they know they probably will not be stopped."

In response, the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office formed a task force to concentrate on curbing convenience store thefts.

"The number of stores outnumbers the deputies we have on duty," Clark said. "This problem is not going away."

Since authorities have become aware of the robberies, several arrests have been made and other known assailants have been identified, thanks in part to video surveillance cameras that feature facial recognition technology.

"I wouldn't know why anyone would try it," Thornbrugh said of the thefts at QuikTrips, which he said is working to enhance its security measures.

"Our stores are monitored 24 hours with cameras. It would be foolish for anyone to think they would not get caught."

Kendrick Marshall 918-581-8386

kendrick.marshall@tulsaworld.com

Copyright 2014 - Tulsa World, Okla.