‘You will be arrested’: MNPD South Precinct cracking down on organized retail crime

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Within a month of its grand opening, Metro police responded to more than 30 calls of theft from the Tanger Outlet in South Nashville. Now, months later how have things changed?

“There’s always been shoplifting. A lot of the shoplifting we see is from Walgreens and Walmart, or kind of out of the necessity for people that really don’t have the money to get baby food or diapers or things like that,” said Commander Kevin Lovell, who is over MNPD’s South Precinct.

Now, a crime that started out of necessity, has quickly turned into anything but.

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“We’re seeing organized groups that plan to come up there, they separate, the divide and they go in and they take multiple thousands of dollars,” Commander Lovell explained. “You look at sunglass hut, they go in there are take 8 or 9 sunglasses that’s 20-thousand dollars. That’s not out of necessity so the organized part of it, yes, has increased”

In the South Precinct, with more and more people moving into the area, the opening of a new mall caught the attention of many, including criminals.

“Not too bad when it opened, we had a few shoplifting incidents, but we had police resources on sight, we had security resources on sight,” he said. “As the time has gone on, there have been increases in organized retail crime at Tanger.”

Within the first month of opening its doors, reports of theft came pouring into Metro Police. However, as quickly as they came, Metro Police worked harder to cut down the crime.

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“The difference with Tanger is the amount of technology they invested in that location is astounding, I mean it’s helped us exponentially, not just License Plate readers, cameras in positions that we’ve helped them put cameras in that helps us identify people,” Commander Lovell said.

Authorities said thieves are targeting the area between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., using the crowds as a tool to get away, but more often than not, it’s the same people every time.

Commander Lovell explained they have three detectives assigned to work the Tanger area.

“We’ve got four or five groups that we’ve identified that come to Tanger. Out of the nine people, just the 9 that are chronically doing that, we’ve got 131 charges that we’ve arrested them on,” he explained. “A lot of the people we were getting that were shoplifting at Tanger were also banned from places like Green Hills, Nashville One, Opry Mills, places like that where they had been opened years and they’ve been shoplifting there and they were banned, and so this opened up and they thought, well this is a prime opportunity, no one knows me there.”

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One of the biggest tools Metro police are using is their relationship with the outlet, owners, and with each other. Commander Lovell explained, that because the same groups continue to target shopping centers, they know how to combat the crime.

“You will be arrested, you’re going to be identified, especially with all the information we share amongst each other,” Commander Lovell said. “We have detailed files on everyone we’ve arrested, we have shared that with everyone we can share it with, and at a certain point once you’re banned from a location it’s no longer shoplifting at that point, when you come back, you’re going to be charged with burglary.”

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