Fairfax County faces an “alarming” rise in retail crimes

This article was written by Nick Minock and published on Wjla.com

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (7News) — Organized retail crimes are hitting Fairfax County hard, according to the police chief.

A video posted by a Fairfax County resident shows at least four people storming down an escalator at Tysons Galleria after allegedly stealing purses. The Fairfax County Police Department said the suspects allegedly stole items worth $150,000 in May 2023. And now, over a year later, arrests still have not been made.

“We’re still struggling with shoplifting and we ended 2023 with just over 7,000 retail crime offenses,” said Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis. “The year before we had 4,000. So, we went from 4,000 to 7,000 in just one year, and that’s alarming. There’s a victim on the other end of that crime. There’s someone who’s lost a wallet. There’s a grocer whose last product. There’s a store at Tyson’s or Springfield or the Mosaic who now has to raise their prices because their shrinkage is too high. People are stealing too often.”

Davis said organized retail criminals are targeting areas like Fairfax County.

“It’s groups of people that descend on entertainment districts, shopping districts, and we have a lot of those in Fairfax County,” said Davis. “And they steal and they get away with it all too often. And by get away with it, I don’t mean that they’re not subject to arrest because our arrests actually went up last year compared to previous years. But the consequences that those thieves – those engaged in retail crime are seeing inside of a courtroom, again, just aren’t where I think the community would want it to be.”

Last year, FCPD officers arrested a retail theft crew based out of Philadelphia for stealing $15,000 worth of goods from Tysons Corner.

In July of last year, two men fled the Springfield Mall and were arrested by FCPD officers for allegedly stealing $37,000 of merchandise.

According to court records, Ricardo Pitter and Kirkland Edwards-Williams failed to appear in court — a felony.

In May 2024, Pitter pleaded guilty to charges related to the theft.

A trial is set in August 2024 for Edwards-Williams who is being charged with conspired retail theft, a class 3 felony. The retail theft crime is a relatively new law in Virginia that lawmakers passed and Governor Glenn Youngkin signed into law in 2024.

Davis would like the law strengthened.

“The bar to charge people with those crimes is so, so high,” said Davis. “I would argue that the bar is too high because, in fact, we’ve only charged under that new statute six times in well over a year. The statute requires the police to be in a position to prove that the person we apprehended, the defendant, was intending to fence the stolen equipment. A lot of times we don’t have that. So, it’s terribly difficult. We know we’ve caught someone with dozens and dozens and dozens of the same item or the same product and we know that they intend to fence it. We know they intend to take it to regional pawn shops. We have to be able to prove that as an element of probable cause. So, I would say this, the organized retail crime statute was enacted with great intentions. But I think that the bar to charge is just a reach for local police departments like ours, to be able to charge that crime as often as we should charge.”

“I think it’s a community conversation that has to make its way to the feet of our lawmakers to ensure that everybody is taking those crimes seriously,” added Davis.

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