Despoliation, a noun meaning “the action of despoiling or the condition of being despoiled; plunder,” has been plaguing your hometown area, and many don’t even know it. With home improvement giants like Home Depot and Lowes serving as massive targets for thieves, many wonder if this recent rash wave of crime will be stopped soon or if we as a nation will only continue to endure this kind of torment.
With these cases getting stranger and stranger, these criminals are showing ingenuity for a crime like never before seen. Back in May, Chicago’s own Lamont Thompson, 49, was accused of committing retail theft by exchanging falsified sales tax returns for gift cards. He now faces four felony charges of retail theft/false Reporting over $300 and one felony charge of continuing financial crimes as an enterprise.
In this instance, Thompson was the kingpin behind a well-organized group of thieves, and it was his interactions with an associate turned informant that got him caught up. These kinds of scams are being proliferated across the US for years but have mostly focused on clothing and other easier one-step crimes.
These easier operations have been the focus of criminal enterprises across the country in the last few years.
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Except they aren’t staying as innocent as they once were. In early June, reports out of NYC focused on a group of four masked men who marched into Home Depot in a militant-like manner. With two bigger assailants acting as blockers, they escorted the thieves who made their way down the aisles stacking carts with nearly a hundred boxes they would not pay for.
At one location, a Home Depot security guard attempted to stop the group as they were walking out. One of their security enforcers said, “I’ll knock you out. This isn’t worth dying for,” according to prosecutors. This kind of brazen violent threats is not what people working in these home improvement stores expected when they signed up for their jobs, and many know just how little their worth is to these major companies.
Raul Aguilar is over the international organized crime division of Homeland Security Investigations, who heads up the investigations into organized crime for the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The way he sees it, these groups are often involved in the illicit drug trade and move over because it’s easier to get and flip thousands of dollars in products at a time.
This all adds up to a major chunk of the hundreds of millions of dollars that is taken every year in retail theft and quickly becomes millions of dollars in profit for the organizations who sell (or fence) the stolen merchandise to unsuspecting buyers on social media, through friends, or even through pawn shops. While companies keep records of serial numbers, it becomes ultimately more difficult to keep inventory when theft keeps it consistently overturning.
From boutique clothing to art to power tools and spools of wire. If there is a good ability to resell the items, and an ability to get in and out of the store quickly, these thieves are ready to go steal anything they can get their hands on. This kind of retail theft is not something these stores are unfamiliar with, but as prosecutors continue to issue desk tickets and release criminals and then opt not to charge them with a crime or prosecute them, they are lost holding their hat in hand.
Mind you, insurance companies are getting hip to this. As a result, they are charging more for coverage, and many won’t pay out under a certain amount, so there is no “recovery” in the long run in most of these cases.
This isn’t the DIY people like Bob Vila or Tim Taylor had in mind back in the 1990s when they were teaching today’s criminals about home improvement. These violent and brazen criminals need to be stopped, and a lesson needs to be sent their way. If not, this situation will only get worse as time continues. As it is, we are already seeing the beginning of what doing nothing will get us as a nation, and Biden is loving every moment of it.