Watertown Police Sting Nabs Nearly a Dozen Suspected Shoplifters

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More than a dozen Watertown Police officers blanketed Arsenal Yards and the Watertown Mall Wednesday afternoon. They blended in, wearing street clothes, so they could approach shoplifters without attracting attention and place them under arrest. The sting nabbed 11 people in about six hours.

The Watertown Police Department worked with retailers, the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office, and the Suburban Middlesex County Drug Task Force, to catch as many shoplifters as possible, and to send a message to others, said Watertown Police Chief Justin Hanrahan.

“During the operation, undercover officers and loss prevention personnel from Target, Best Buy, Nike, Home Depot, and Ulta were strategically deployed across various retail establishments identified as high-risk locations for shoplifting. Their presence served to deter criminal activity and apprehend perpetrators in the act,” Hanrahan said in a statement after the sting.

Police arrested seven people, and summoned four juveniles suspected of shoplifting at Target, Nike and Marshalls on Wednesday.

At the beginning of the day, Watertown Police met with security and loss prevention personnel from several stores to go over the game plan, and coordinate communication so they could alert officers when someone was suspected of stealing merchandise.

Around noon, Watertown Police Capt. Ken Delaney and Det. Sgt. Ken Swift set up a command post in the area where they could sit with members of security from the stores in the two shopping areas. When store security spotted something going on, they relayed the information to the officers overseeing the operation, who in turn alerted the undercover officers.

During quiet periods, security personnel swapped stories about their experience in Watertown, and other locations around the Boston area and New England. Target provided water and chips, and Nike brought over pizza and salad from Frank Pepe Pizzeria.

Before the sting began, Hanrahan said he wanted the focus on retail crime to have an impact on the growing problem in Watertown.

“I hope that this is an active day, and that this sends a message that this isn’t a place to shoplift,” Hanrahan said.

The action started only minutes after the 1 p.m. start of the operation. The first suspect was taken into custody at 1:19 p.m., when an officer in plain clothes spotted a man leave Target carrying a case of Modelo beer, priced at $29, without paying. Alexander Gutierrez, 22, of Waltham, was arrested on a charge of shoplifting, and police found he also had an active warrant.

At 3 p.m., police stopped a group of four juveniles that had taken items from Target. They were summoned to appear in Waltham District Court. The Watertown Police does not release the identities of juveniles.

A man stole $393.46 worth of apparel, groceries and home goods from Target at 3:49 p.m. Basu Basu, 27, of Boston, was arrested for shoplifting.

At Marshalls, a woman was seen taking $60 worth of clothing items, and was stopped when she left without paying. Mijayla Yanney, 22, of Boston, was arrested for shoplifting at 5:27 p.m.

At 5:45 p.m., a woman left Nike without paying for $205 worth of merchandise. Janee Jones, 39, of Brighton, was arrested for Shoplifting.

A man concealed $23 worth of alcohol in a shopping bag at Target and tried to leave without paying at 6:09 p.m. Adam Doheny, 38 of Natick, was arrested for shoplifting.

At 6:41 p.m., two men were seen in Target working together. They removed the theft-detection device from an espresso machine, and took other items, worth a combined $225.46. Artak Karapetyan, 40, of Watertown, and Karapet Igityan, 38, of Watertown, were both arrested on charges of removal of a theft detection device (a felony) and shoplifting.

Another man may be summoned to Waltham District Court for an incident that is still under investigation by Watertown Police.

One of the suspects was arraigned in Court on Wednesday afternoon, and the rest were arraigned Thursday morning, Swift said.

Wednesday’s full-court press was months in the planning. After seeing an upswing in shoplifting and larceny from stores at Arsenal Yards and the Watertown Mall, Swift began convening monthly meetings with loss prevention representatives from the stores, as well as the security for the Arsenal Yards property.

Delaney told the security personnel that there had been 33 shoplifting incidents in February, 59 in March, and there were 30 midway through April. He said the goal of the operation was to “get this under control,” and to “try to deter things in the future.”

The Watertown Police had tried some other methods to try to curb shoplifting, but had not seen progress, Delaney said, so they looked to try something different. Swift said he was pleased with the results of Wednesday’s sting.

“We will continue to do it into the future because it is obviously successful and we hope that people will recognize that the police are serious about shoplifting crimes in Watertown, specifically in those two areas — Arsenal Yards and the Watertown Mall area. We are not going to tolerate it,” Swift said.

The operation included 15 Watertown Police officers, some of whom were working overtime so that the patrol officers could cover the rest of town. The Middlesex Sheriff sent a van that was parked off site, and would pull up after an arrest and take suspects to the Watertown Police Station to be booked.

Hanrahan thanked everyone who took part in the operation.

“The Watertown Police Department extends its gratitude to all participating agencies for their dedication and cooperation throughout this operation. We remain committed to proactive measures to safeguard our community and will continue to work tirelessly to prevent and deter criminal activity,” Hanrahan said.

7 thoughts on “Watertown Police Sting Nabs Nearly a Dozen Suspected Shoplifters

  1. Thanks go out to our new Chief Hanrahan for taking the initiative to break this chain of shoplifting events that has been plaguing our Watertown stores. We see many of these incidents reported in Watertown News, but we know those are only a small amount of the actual incidents.

    The stores are losing money and when they lose, we pay on the other end to make up for those losses. With costs of everything going up, anything we can do to prevent these extra price increases by arresting the culprits is a great start. Plus we need to make it safe for employees to work in these stores and for customers to shop in them.

    I just hope that these criminals will actually suffer some consequences when they appear in court and not just be slapped on their hands and set free. To put the sting operations in place took a lot of time and money and the criminals need to know that it won’t be worth their time to commit crimes in our city.

    With our lax state prosecution rules where the limits of allowed stolen property are so high before they are held to account, it would be discouraging for the police to go through all of this if there aren’t serious consequences in the courts, especially for repeat offenders.

  2. This is an excellent example for the entire Boston metro area. Tremendous respect and kudos to the Watertown PD.

  3. Much thanks and congrats to the Watertown Police!
    Now, can this be repeated at frequent but unpredictable intervals from now on?

    Also, have witnessed at least 3 instances in Target and Best Buy, tried to find security or alert store personnel, but by the time anyone responds, the shoplifters are long gone. The police can’t do it alone.

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