The 10th Annual Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail (CLEAR) conference saw an incredible turnout of nearly 300 retail, law enforcement, and vendor attendees at the beautiful Bahia Resort on Mission Bay in San Diego, CA, October 28–31, 2019. One of the features of this conference is recognition of top investigations that made major impact in the retail industry.
CLEAR Case of the Year Award
For over ten years, retailers operating in San Francisco’s Union Square, were frustrated by constant high-dollar boosting events, store takeovers, and violent attacks on employees and customers. In March 2018, the California Department of Justice stepped up to aid retailers such as Macy’s, CVS, Walmart, Victoria’s Secret, Target, and Walgreens. These retailers had reported losses in excess of $7 million.
Assistant District Attorney Tom Ostly and Investigator Alex Nocon took the time to listen to the concerns of the retailers and launched an investigation to identify the thieves and disrupt the flow of stolen merchandise. During the eight-month investigation, Ostly and Nocon worked to identify over 40 prolific boosters stealing high-dollar merchandise including purses, lingerie, cosmetics, liquor, and over-the-counter medications. The investigation revealed fences were shipping the stolen product as far north as Seattle, Washington, and as far east as Houston, Texas.
As a direct result of this investigation, a new ORC task force was formed in San Francisco County, and the California Highway Patrol launched an ORC interdiction initiative. The case was supported by California Governor Jerry Brown and used as a backdrop for the introduction of California’s new ORC legislation.
Since the closing of this case, there has been a dramatic decrease in overall crime in San Francisco’s Union Square, and it has become a safer place to both work and shop. This important case directly changed the way ORC is viewed and handled in the State of California.
Loss Prevention Investigation of the Year Award
This case was a collaborative investigation between eBay, Home Depot, Unified PD, and the Utah Attorney General’s office. This investigation began three years ago when eBay Investigator Stephen Huhnke proactively noticed multiple eBay accounts seemingly linked together selling new in-box items (NIB).
Over the next year, ORC Investigator Brian Marvin, Detective Parsons Metzkow, and Agent Chris Walden worked tirelessly to formulate a plan with lead attorney Steve Wuthrich and Marvin’s partner Randy Barnhart. Once the operation was live, it only took six weeks to have enough evidence to move forward with search warrants. Agent James Russell wrote search warrants that led to the seizure of 50 pallets of merchandise valued at over $1 million.
Thanks to Agent Walden and AG Reyes, there is a new statute in Utah that prohibits pawn shops from buying or selling NIB products.
Law Enforcement Investigation of the Year Award
These law enforcement officers partnered with Houston area loss prevention agents to target violent robbery suspects. This dynamic and collaborative approach was hugely successful in reducing the incidents of violent robbery significantly.
This award was accepted by Harris County (TX) Sheriff’s Office, Major Offenders Squad, and the Texas Department of Public Safety Violent Crimes Squad.
CLEAR Community Service Award Winner
This award was given to Detective Vicki Aubrey of the Salt Lake City Police Department. Det. Aubrey has served more than 15 years with SLCPD working in patrol, ORC, bike patrol and most recently SVU. She has tirelessly served on the UTORCA board of directors for four years and as a board member of CLEAR for the last two years. She has been a valuable board member made a profound contribution to the mission of CLEAR.
CLEAR Leadership Award
This leadership award was presented to Curt Crum for his contribution serving four years as president of CLEAR and his 32 years in leadership positions with the Boise (ID) Police Department. Crum retired from BPD in July but continues to serve on the CLEAR board of directors.
Retail Investigation Special Recognition
This recognition was awarded to Chantal McMillan, Albertsons LP investigator and Jennifer Payne, Hobby Lobby investigator. In October of 2018, McMillan began an investigation into to the significant loss of vitamins and OTC products. She partnered with Boise Police ORC Investigators Adam Schloegel and Ryan Thueson. The investigation was bolstered by information received from Payne, who distributed information about a subject hitting Hobby Lobby stores in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. Boise Police was able to identify the suspect in a joint investigation with the eBay PROACT team, and an arrest warrant was issued, resulting in the arrest of the suspect. In all, this case involved the theft of over $500,000 in retail merchandise.
Apart for the awards, training sessions were conducted on multiple topics:
● Violent Crime Trends
● Growing Trends in Retail Armed Robberies
● Lessons from an Active-Shooter Incident
● Interviewing Victims of Traumatic Events
● Major Case Study: Investigative Collaboration
● Interviewing and Interrogation with Wicklander-Zulawski
● California 2020 ORC Initiatives
● Defusing Tactics for Violence Prevention
● ORC: A Criminals Evolution
● Open-Source Investigations
● Investigating and Prosecuting Financial Crimes
● FBI and Retail LP Counter-Terrorism Initiative
● CLEAR Leadership Event: Women in Leadership with Captain Kate Adams
● Key Indicators of External Theft
● Partnerships in e-Commerce Investigation
This year’s conference included a record number of certification scholarships given to conference attendees. Loss Prevention Foundation (LPF) made a big splash in San Diego, as LPF President Terry Sullivan, LPC presented a generous 18 LPC and LPQ scholarships to conference attendees. Wicklander-Zulawski Senior Partner Wayne Hoover also presented two CFI scholarships to attendees.
CLEAR would like to offer its sincerest thanks to its long list of vendors who made this conference possible.
Premier Partner Sponsors
The Zellman Group
Business Watch International / RAPID
Costar Video Systems
Gulfcoast Software Solutions
Securitas Electronic Security
Window Film Depot
LPI by DTiQ
National Association for Shoplifting Prevention
La Familia Robaina
Jewelers Security Alliance