Shoplifting and theft are no longer crimes hiding in the shadows.
Security and law enforcement officials in Santa Fe say the bad guys are always bolder – and sometimes violent – when they steal goods or money and then flee from nearby shops and restaurants.
“From the numbers we can see that there is a higher level of violence in an encounter,” said the interim police chief of Santa Fe, Paul Joye. “We have stepped up our close patrols in business areas to deter crime, and we ask staff not to confront people unless absolutely necessary.”
Although police say calls for relatively minor crimes like theft or burglary and burglary have decreased compared to 2019, calls for violent assault and assault have increased – and their effects are becoming increasingly public in Santa Fe stores as city shoppers do In the Christmas season again flock to the shops in flocks of the season.
- A manager at Cerrillos Road Walmart was stabbed in the chest by a man with a penknife in November while attempting to escort him out of the store because of worrying behavior.
- A few days later, 30-year-old Leonard Esquivel was charged with armed robbery after he was accused of pulling an ax from a worker at Walmart’s southern location while attempting to escape a fire escape with stolen items, according to court records .
- Jacob Montoya, who was involved in a high-speed car chase and long-distance shootout in late November that resulted in the death of his passenger, was recently charged with four armed robbery after he was accused of several fast food Robbing restaurants in Santa Fe restaurants at gunpoint in their thoroughfares.
Small businesses, it seems, are no longer safe: Rowley’s downtown farmhouse Ales was robbed at gunpoint while employees closed in August, and at least one downtown restaurant closes earlier than it used to. Others are considering hiring a private security company.
Charlie Johnston, the owner of a local security company serving downtown businesses, said, “There seems to be a lot more of all-around nighttime misconduct. People are definitely more nervous than ever, and obviously this is one of the things that safety often carries the most. “
Johnston said some customers ask his customers to be escorted to their vehicles in the evening. He warns his less experienced security guards to be vigilant.
“I always tell them: give us a call or call the police before you try to deal with anything [in the neighborhood] today, ”he said. “Because I am going into this situation myself and trying to help someone, I would feel that it is much more dangerous now than it was before.”
Owners Charlie Johnston (right) and Shontez Morris with security assets check an unsecured door Dec. 10 during a foot patrol in the Guadalupe business district. “There seems to be a lot more of general misconduct late into the night,” said Johnston, who runs several downtown businesses.
It’s unclear whether crime is escalating in large physical stores, although some shoppers and staff have reported that people have left with goods they did not buy.
District 3 city councilor Chris Rivera, who sits on the city’s health and safety working group, said his family saw shoplifters walking out of stores with goods.
“[Staffers] basically, you’re letting them know they’ve been told not to confront them, not to do anything about it, ”he said. “Unfortunately, I think that many companies move like this, and I think that’s the way to go.”
Efforts to reach national spokespersons for employee safety protocols at Walmart, Lowe’s Home Improvement, and The Home Depot have been unsuccessful.
A statement from Target said that security teams in every store are trained to ensure a “safe shopping environment”.
“We invest time and resources in our branch managers and members of the security team so that they can protect themselves and de-escalate potential security issues,” the statement said. “We also work continuously with law enforcement agencies to tackle organized retail crime.”
Still, Lt. Jimmie Montoya told Santa Fe Police that officers are seeing a change in business.
“I would say over the past year we have seen an increase in shoplifting which turns into serious assault,” he said. “The person can be armed with a knife or have a gun in their waistband. … It’s hard for me to say why the increase, but we saw an increase. “
Montoya said police are trying to educate business owners or employees in large retail stores on how to de-escalate situations until police can arrive. The officers’ presence will increase as much as possible during the holidays, he added.
Sam Gerberding, general manager of the Inn of the Governors and Del Charro Saloon, said he had never before had a policy on whether employees should face a potentially armed person, but he is considering developing one now after putting a gun on one of his Employee was pulled.
He also plans to train his staff in de-escalation tactics and hires Johnston’s Security Asset Solutions to oversee his business.
“We moved to use a security company seven evenings a week,” he said. “I want my employees to feel safe and I want them to be there. If in the end I feel like I’m wasting money – excellent, I’m happy because that means I have no situations. “
Not far away, Patrick Lambert, co-owner of the popular Cowgirl BBQ restaurant in downtown Santa Fe, said employee safety concerns had prompted him to change the restaurant’s opening hours.
“We close early because we’re tired of dealing with it,” he said, adding that he hoped the city will take direct action to protect businesses while helping people in need.
Such concerns have reached the ears of local officials who say they recognize the complexities of the problem and are ready to sit down with business owners to find solutions.
“I know we have in the past organized a meeting with companies interested in addressing the issues that affect their business,” said Councilor Michael Garcia. “It sounds like it’s time to reorganize. It is better for us to be proactive than reactive. “
County Commissioner Hank Hughes said there is a difference between those who try to survive and those who attack others.
“There is a difference between someone trying to get their basic needs such as escaping the weather by hiding in a car or begging for food or money to get food,” he said. “It’s very different from someone taking a gun into a store and trying to steal all the money so they can buy drugs. These are two different levels. “
He added that officials are trying to address the issues “with the resources we have, namely the sheriff’s office and criminal police force,” he said.
Montoya said the police need support from the public with people notifying the police of suspicious activity, providing witness reports and assisting in their investigation.
“We are only so good at our job when we have people to help us,” he said. “I like to call it a team effort.”