In recent weeks, Mitchell's office has announced cases against several people charged with organized retail theft — and thefts of more than $2 million in merchandise — along with highlighting a Safe Shopping campaign to enlist the public's help in thwarting the problem.
Last year, MCAO received 301 cases of organized retail crime from local police agencies. Mitchell has said she expects the number of cases in 2023 to eclipse that of 2022.
"People who come here to commit this type of crime will be held accountable. This is not another state where the DA is not charging these cases," Mitchell said during a Nov. 29 press conference. "We will find you. Police will arrest you. We will prosecute you and hold you accountable."
Mitchell unveiled the Safe Shopping campaign on Nov. 15 as an extension of her office’s Organized Retail Crime Taskforce created in July 2022. Whereas the task force is focused on targeting and prosecuting organized retail theft offenders, Safe Shopping is a public-facing campaign.
Mitchell reminded the public to be vigilant but also safe while shopping during a Nov. 29 press conference.
"If you're a customer and you notice this type of activity while shopping, please report it to the store authorities," Mitchell said. "But do not engage with thieves"
‘Retail theft affects everyone’The Phoenix Police Department has also focused on retail thefts in recent months.
In mid-September, the agency’s Property Crimes Bureau compiled a list of repeat offenders and high-crime areas to survey. It took just four days to serve 248 warrants, make 64 arrests and seize five guns, according to a police press release.
“Retail theft affects everyone. It's why we see more and more items under lock and key when we shop and consumers end up paying for it in the long run in the form of higher prices," Phoenix police Chief Michael Sullivan said in a prepared statement.
Unlike petty theft, organized retail theft occurs when individuals or groups commit large-scale theft, sometimes across multiple states, with the intention of reselling the nabbed goods.
“The Arizona Retailers Association estimates that $1.4 billion has been lost from organized retail crime in Arizona alone in 2019. That number is going to be much higher in 2023,” Brandon Hiller, Mitchell's chief of staff, posted on X.
Retail thefts nab $2 million from Home Depot stores
The county attorney's office and Phoenix police have announced several retail theft ring arrests. Mitchell's office also recently launched an online tool to track recent cases.
In October, Juan Ambriz-Rincon was arrested in Mesa. The New Mexico resident, 39, allegedly stole $2 million in merchandise from Home Depot stores in Arizona and neighboring states over the course of three years.
He's charged him with 14 counts of organized retail theft, two counts of trafficking stolen property, two counts of attempt to traffic stolen property and one count of possession of narcotic drugs.
Mitchell’s office also has charged two Arizona women with several counts of organized retail theft. Sarah Barker, 37, and Sierra Monroe, 26, are accused of stealing thousands of dollars in merchandise from local retailers.
"These women face organized retail theft charges after taking, combined between the two of them, approximately $6,600 worth of clothing from discount retailers across the Valley," Mitchell said. She added that these three cases are just a few of many.
In November, her office indicted two California women, Ishanae Turner and Devony Reneau, for allegedly stealing from 12 cosmetic, pharmacy and grocery stores across Maricopa County.
Mitchell's office indicted Turner on 12 felony counts of organized retail theft and one felony count of unlawful flight from law enforcement. Reneau was indicted on 10 felony counts of organized retail theft.
With these recent arrests, MCAO has made its stance on organized retail theft clear.
“I do not want to see Maricopa County or Phoenix or other surrounding areas turn into the hellscape that is Los Angeles,” Mitchell said at a Sept. 6 press conference.