Dallas Police won't respond to shoplifting cases under $50

Jan. 19, 2012
DPD puts shoplifting case burden on retailers

On January 5th a new Dallas Police Department policy was put into place where they no longer respond to retailer’s calls for shoplifting under $50. There are some exceptions, however. If the thief has an existing warrant out for their arrest, they will respond, but only act on the outstand warrant. If the retailer wants to trespass the thief from their property, the police will respond, but will only issue a trespass notice. In order to prosecute the retailer must fill out, notarize and mail an “Application for Complaint and Sworn Affidavit” to the Dallas Prosecutor’s Office.

Here’s the crux of the new policy:

  • If the store has an arrestee that can be identified and does not have warrants, DPD will not dispatch officers.
  • If an officer is dispatched they will direct the complainant to straight file the case with the City of Dallas Prosecutor's Office. Officers will not issue a citation or make a theft report for theft under $50.
  • The business will complete an online "Application for Complainant and Sworn Affidavit" form if they wish to file a case for theft against the arrestee to the City of Dallas Prosecutor's Office at 2014 Main Street Dallas, Texas 75201.
  • The "Application for Complainant and Sworn Affidavit " is available on the following website: http://dallaspolice.net/index.cfm?page_ID=12238.
  • If the arrestee has a warrant for their arrest, the officer will arrest for the outstanding warrant only.

Some of the issues, as I see it, are this new policy sits squarely on the shoulders of the small retailer, as they typically do not have hired security officers on staff who must take the time to fill out a report (which is normally the job of a police officer), have it notarized, and mail it in. One of the more dangerous aspects of this policy is the retailer must physically apprehend the thief, obtain proper identification and check on the warrant status. If the person has proper ID (or at least what the retailer thinks is proper ID) and no outstanding warrants, they have to let the person go, fill out the paperwork and mail it to the prosecutor.

This new Dallas Police Department policy is akin to the pressure that was put on Walmart  to change their policy to one in which they didn’t prosecute for amounts under $25. In Walmart’s case, many law enforcement jurisdictions said they were overburdened with calls about shoplifting and didn’t have the manpower to respond. But this policy was done away with when Walmart experienced increased shrink across the board. I say “across the board” because Walmart never provided specific figures, but the various shoplifting discussion boards are full of people who were surprised that they were now being prosecuted for thefts less than $25. Did Walmart not believe in the “word on the street” expression?

I suspect one of the benefits this new policy has, as the Dallas Police now does not even file a theft report, is the City of Dallas will enjoy a decrease in the crime rate statistics.

This policy is similar to what’s currently happening in the United Kingdom. In most cases, the police now issue what they call a “caution” in writing to the thief. No court, no fine, just a worded slap on the wrist. Shopkeepers in the United Kingdom are rising up against this practice. This is what it will take for the Dallas Police Department to abolish their new policy.

--Curtis Baillie, Security Consulting Strategies, LLC