Tigard police’s unique unit dedicated business crime
TIGARD Ore. (KPTV) - The Tigard Police Department just might have the biggest property crime unit in the region, thanks to its unique funding source.
It’s called the Commercial Crime Unit; the team consists of three detectives and one sergeant who are dedicated to fighting crime for local businesses. If you own a business in Tigard, some of your business license fees fund the positions.
The program has been in place for 14 years in Tigard and city employees say the unit’s funding structure is unique among police departments on the west coast, and possibly the nation.
“We have the luxury of our unit, where we can, actually go out and investigate these things, so it’s not just a patrol unit going call to call to call,” said Gabriel Stone, one of the detectives assigned to the unit.
And as other local police departments have, in recent years, struggled to devote resources to fight property crime, Tigard Police’s unit has expanded since it started -- their jobs, untouchable, as long as those business license fees pour in.
The detectives investigate fraud, phone scams, fake luxury goods, shoplifting and organized retail crime, among other duties.
Recently, detectives showed FOX 12 some of the popular methods used by thieves, such as ATM skimmers and even a money-washing scheme that allows them to alter money.
“So these bills in here are one-dollar bills,” said Detective Kaci Mace, holding up a jar with bills rolled up in a liquid. “They will soak them in a special solution and once they’ve soaked long enough, they will take them out, remove the ink and reprint with a different denomination, like $50 or $100.
In Tigard, police say organized retail crime is one of the biggest issues that businesses face.
“They’ll come down and steal armloads of fragrances or cosmetics or even clothing,” Stone said. “They’ll steal them by the stack load and then through our investigation, we’ll see that they have like a pop-up store, online sales – like a Craigslist or an Offer Up.”
It’s these sorts of cases where Mace recently had a victory: A Washington County grand jury recently indicted a suspect on several aggravated theft charges, stemming from $200,000 in stolen merchandise from Target and Fred Meyer, over a period of six months.
The same suspect also has three felony warrants out of Clark County.
FOX 12 is not naming the suspect because police are still trying to capture him.
“We have loss prevention agents from other counties that will contact us and say ‘hey, we could use your guys’ help with this.’ If we can find a business with a tie to Tigard, then we are all about it,” Mace said.
And while the work may be endless, these detectives say it’s rewarding.
“We’re actually able to hold (thieves) accountable,” Stone said. It’s a big point of pride for us to be able to defend the businesses in our city.”
“People start to know, ‘oh we’re not going to Tigard, they actually investigate cases,’” Stone added.
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