ORCA Team Arrests 2 Shoplifting Suspects; $20K Theft

Members from the Greenwich Police Department’s Organized Retail Criminal Activity Team (ORCA) chased three suspects on foot down Greenwich Avenue on Wednesday afternoon after they were observed stealing high value handbags from a local merchant, according to a statement from the GPD.

Two of the suspects were apprehended after a brief foot pursuit and struggle. The third suspect got away with over $20,000 worth of merchandise.

The two suspects — one from New Rochelle, N.Y., and the other from the Bronx, N.Y. — were each charged with larceny in the first degree, conspiracy to commit larceny in the first degree, organized retail theft, and conspiracy to commit organized retail theft.

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The suspect from the Bronx, a 43-year-old male, fought with police and was additionally charged with assault on an officer, and interfering. He was also charged with possession of a shoplifting device after police found wire cutters used to disengage security straps; possession of a controlled substance; and possession of narcotics after pills and marijuana were found on his person. The suspect was unable to post $25,000 bond, and is being held in custody. The other suspect, a 46-year-old male, was released on $2,500 bond.

Both men are scheduled to appear in Stamford Superior Court on Feb. 24. The investigation remains open and further arrests are possible, Greenwich Police said.

“The primary objective of professional crime rings is to steal from retail organizations for the purpose of turning retail products into financial gain, rather than for personal use,” GPD said in a statement. “These criminal operations are responsible for tens of billions of dollars in losses each year nationally. Locally the losses can devastate a retail business.”

The ORCA Team, which consists of plainclothes officers who patrol Greenwich Avenue, was created in 2019, after the department recognized that there was an increase in a number of crimes in the downtown area, including large scale shoplifting, identity theft and misuse of fraudulent or stolen credit cards, which had significant impact on local residents and merchants.

According to GPD Chief Jim Heavey, the ORCA Team has played an important role in the redeployment of officers on Greenwich Avenue. Earlier this month, the Representative Town Meeting heard a Sense of the Meeting Resolution (SOMR) which called for officers to be reinstalled back to their posts directing traffic in intersections.

In a letter to Greenwich residents before that meeting, Heavey voiced opposition to the SOMR, saying that the new redeployment of officers on bicycle and the ORCA Team is a better use of resources, and enhances public safety.

In his letter, Heavey recalled a scene he witnessed while out on Greenwich Avenue this past New Years Eve.

On News Years’ Eve, I walked the Avenue to find Officer Repik directing traffic on Havemeyer Place. (Officers are empowered to direct traffic whenever they see a need.) I saw Officers Smurlo and D’Inverno patrolling on bicycles. I noted Officers Hall and Daly in civilian clothes, checking with retailers and communicating new information about recent activity,” Heavey said. “While a vote to restore officers to fixed traffic posts on the Avenue would be non-binding and not mandatory, it would be a virtual vote of ‘no confidence’ in the efforts by the Greenwich Police Department to address emerging crime trends and to align limited police resources with the needs of the community.”

Not including Wednesday’s arrests, in just the last year according to Heavey, the ORCA Team has investigated 48 cases, resulting in 41 persons being arrested for 65 felonies, 37 misdemeanors and dozens of infractions. Many of these local arrests were tied to major regional cases being investigated by federal law enforcement agencies. Many of these suspects have been tied to violent crimes committed elsewhere.

Because the SOMR was issued and there was a first read, no action was taken. The RTM is slated to discuss the issue more and possibly vote during their March meeting… Greenwich Sentinel

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