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So after a few months of being a 'Service Ambassador', the LP team had gone through some turmoil resulting in a few agents being terminated. The risk management of loss prevention liabilities leave very few grey areas. The easiest way to get fired was a DWA, or 'detention without arrest'. Basically, you lose sight of a subject for even a second, they could have ditched the merch. We always had a minimum of two people watching from different angles and communicating on radio. Even if you made a legit case, if you escalate the findings along the wrong chain of command, there's a disciplinary action coming. The three years I was in LP, I only made one error that ended up resulting in a admonishment. This 17 year old kid comes in high as a kite on meth, and he is circling our men's designer Gucci display like a shark. Kid is literally vibrating. As I am watching, he selects an entire Gucci track suit. $3,000 sweat pants and heads toward the door... OK dude, you've got my attention.

     These conversations are an interesting opportunity to work on selective verbiage under pressure. A nonchalant banter will put a subject on unfamiliar terrain, as they're accustomed to an authoritarian response to their malfeasance. I approached the kid from behind, slightly off to his right side, where he was holding the Gucci.

     "Excuse me, can I help you find something? A salesperson, perhaps?" Looking him in the eyes, allowing one noticeable eye flicker on the track suit.

     "You work here?" 

     "I do. You want me to hold that behind the counter while you shop? Or would you like to purchase them now? I can ring you up."

     "Fuck you."

     At this point, I placed my hands on the merch, as I was about to trespass him for verbal abuse of a Nordstrom employee, namely me. He let go as soon as I touched it, and took his first swing, a right hook that gave me a phone call and made reservations before it invaded my airspace. He smiled after punching the air in front of me. I handed the Gucci to my partner.

     "Out." I said, pointing at the door. My hands were in fists, in front of my face. My chin was down but my eyes were up as I walked him up the stairs and he took another swing. This time, I ducked it. Stood back up, fists still up, chin still down.

     "Go. Now. Never. Come. Back."

     Then, right as he is crossing the threshold empty-handed, he took his third swing, and made the slightest of contact with my chin. Then he immediately sprinted. I was laughing, as this little shit had just pulled a Napoleon Dynamite on me. I took three hard lunges at him, just to make him run, and walked back chuckling.

     Now, since the kid had technically assaulted me, I ought to have escalated this up the chain as an assault. Since the kid had barely even brushed me, I wrote it up as a simple shoplift attempt.

     Imagine my surprise when, the next day I walk into work and the slap happy little shithead is handcuffed to our bench in our detention room.

     He'd come back for the track suit. 

Edited by Boogerhead
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After three or four months as an ambassador, I was promoted to agent. As an agent, the decision to detain fell to me, as did a large portion of the store safety. From stubbed toes, paper cuts, employee altercations, customer altercations, stalkers, homeless, drug use, public indecency, etcetera... All my problem, and weirdly, I loved it. I had memorized the building floor plan almost immediately, with the exception of the sub-basement, which took months to figure out. Consequently, I knew how to get from any part of the building to another faster than anyone. Whenever a call went out over the radio, I was the first one on the scene.

     The LPM that had hired me had been reassigned, along with his assistant, during my agent training. To provide some leadership during this turnover period, corporate brought in an investigator from Alaska named Stephen. Investigators are regional agents that tend to specialize in certain areas of investigation. Be it interrogation, organized retail criminal groups or internal investigations, they are the quantitive research division of loss prevention, and Stephen was one of the best.

     Six foot seven inches is an anomaly for a Filipino,  so Stephen kinda stuck out. His propensity toward Hawaiian print shirts didn't do much to camouflage, but really, who expects the 6'7 Flip in a Steve-o shirt to be an agent? Plus, he could run so fast... which was especially hilarious if you were running with him because he cursed like a sailor with Tourette's the entire time. 

     So, for the time being, the loss prevention department hierarchy was Stephen, Me, agent's Kyle, Justin, Lacey and 4 or 5 ambassadors in training. A small team of dedicated individuals trying to dam the ocean.

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     My first arrest was Eddie. Eddie was a Salvadoran with, you guessed it, a meth addiction. I first became aware of Eddie while watching cameras while Emelio was on a break. I was scanning cameras on the Metro level, and noticed an individual with his hood up. He was "backwalling" through mens designer, heading toward our winter coats. I called him out over the radio: "98 male, grey hooded coat, hood up. Metro, mens d, moving toward coats."

     No sooner had I called this out over the radio then Eddie entered coats, selected five Northface ($280 each), and headed toward the staircase leading up to the 6th avenue exit.

 

     And he was out, before anyone could even see him.

 

     Except me.

 

     So, I saved the video, retrieved a nice face shot and sent out an email to all of our regional LP agents asking if anyone recognized him. Within a few days, an agent from one of our Rack stores sent me his name, mugshot and case file. I added the theft I had witnessed as a "SWA", or 'Shoplift Without Arrest'.

 

     So, I had his number. I shared his picture with all my agents and sales people, told them to call me immediately if he was seen. Which we all knew, he would be back. They always come back. Some to return the stolen merchandise, some to steal more, and some just to flaunt it, but he would come back.

 

     The next few times Eddie came back, he managed to loot a few more coats. Funny thing about the repeats, they tend to go for the same thing. Over and over. Eddie's thing was coats. Whatever.

 

     Finally, in March, Eddie came into the store from our metro tunnel and started backwalling again, just like the first time I saw him. I was working with my first LPM, JD that day, and I told him what Eddie was going to do. "He's gonna backwall through mens d over to the coats, make a selection and head out 6th." Which he did, all the way until the stairs at 6th. He'd seen someone he recognized, and pivoted back toward the tunnel. As JD was following pretty far back, he just entered the tunnel and waited. Eddie had the choice of 5th avenue, or back into the tunnel from where he came. I could see him looking over at the tunnel, so I held back and radioed JD that he was coming. As Eddie approached the doors, I moved fast behind him and said "Green light" into the radio, signaling JD that Eddie hadn't ditched the coats and was fair game. 

 

     Eddie pushed through the doors, pivoted left and made a break for the escalator up to Pine street with JD and I right behind him as he hit the escalator. JD grabbed the merch, but Eddie thought he could fight for it. Eddie was wrong. While he was trying to pull the coats from JD, I grabbed his free hand and pulled it around behind his back. At this point, Eddie dropped the merch and JD grabbed his other hand, bending Eddie over the handrail. I was clicking the second bracelet on Eddie's new handcuffs into place as the escalator arrived at the top.

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So, establishing a routine was rather necessary as an agent. My regular shift ended up being 1pm to 10pm, closing the store. As lead agent, the store was my responsibility anyway, so I figured I might as well be the last one out. So, I'd usually bus in and get off three or four blocks before the store. We already fluctuated our schedules to deter people from recognizing us, so I never worked the same days of the week. I got off the bus early in order to surveil the neighborhood. Without fail, by the time I had walked the few blocks in to work, I would have spotted three or four knowns on the street. As I entered our store, I'd pick up the phone and call up to our camera operator and relay the individuals names, descriptions, what they'd been wearing and their direction of travel. Keeping eyes on the knowns always pays off. Getting their entrance at the start of a video means their entire visit would be videotaped and could be used as evidence.

     My first few weeks working the store, I spent a lot of time on the streets around our property introducing myself to the people that lived and worked on our block. I made friends with a handful of transients, buying them the occasional coffee, sharing cigarettes and getting to know them. This ended up being an invaluable source of info, as the transients that literally lived on the block saw damn near everything that went down, and since they knew me as someone who cared, they'd let me know what they saw. To this day, I will stop by and maintain my network of homeless sources. You never know when some eyes on the street will come in handy...

     So, by the time Stephen took over for JD, I had a routine, an internal floor plan and a network of sources. I knew all of our regulars by face and by name, and I had gotten tight with our camera operators, ambassadors and fellow agents. We had a skeleton crew, but our collection of bones had the legs, the arms and the skull. We could see, think,  run and grab. Of course, such a sparse team means you are going to miss quite a few, and that's OK. Just takes longer to close the case.

     

     The incident that had resulted in the LPM and his assistant being fired was a shoplift gone awry. The subject was a known named Jesse, and had become our #1 most wanted in the entire company, nationwide. Jesse would come into the store and hit us hard three times a week. When I first started, I thought he was a damned ghost. In less than ten seconds, Jesse could get $2,500 to $3,000 worth of merch out of the store. I don't care how fast you run, 10 seconds is not enough time. I couldn't figure out how he was doing it.

     Then, one day as I was walking to a bus stop, there he was in front of me. I was behind him, and he was approaching an intersection. As he waited, he turned around and looked at me and said, "You're not working right now are you?" No surprise, no fear. He knew I was there. That's when this truth hit me: You can be stupid and clever simultaneously. I told myself right then to never underestimate how clever a stupid man might be capable of being.

     "No." was all I said to Jesse, but that was enough. We'd both just put each other on notice. He told me he knew who I was, and I told him I knew as well.

     The game was fucking on.

Edited by Boogerhead
changed routing to routine.
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     So, Jesse knew my face, and I knew his name, face, address, telephone number, drug of choice, girlfriend's name, past addresses, schools he'd attended... basically everything.

     One day, I was walking into work, and I spotted Jesse in a Starbucks across 6th avenue from the store. He was right in front, looking out the window, across the street, and into our window. I noted his position, outfit and where he was looking. He was looking into our window, right at the department he always hit us in, which was fragrances. He liked high end smells, specifically Creed. Creed is the worlds oldest continuously functioning perfumery, and their product is among the most exclusive and expensive. From $450.00 to $500.00 a bottle. Jesse would walk in the 6th avenue entrance, make a left, grab 5 or 6 bottles of Creed and walk out E-bar, all in less than 10 to 15 seconds. It was actually, no shit, rather impressive. From Starbucks he had determined where the backstock was located, who the sales people were, who LP was and the relevant exits. He could see when the merch was unattended, when LP was changing shifts and when it was safe to walk out of the store with $3,000 worth of smells. Three times a week, for nearly two years.

     The way Jesse got management term'd was, as stated, a simple shoplift gone awry.

     Jesse didn't work alone. His partner and girlfriend, Kelly, was always with him one way or the other. Jesse would make a grab while Kelly distracted, or vice averse. The day management got termed, Jesse and Kelly both tried the boost. Our assistant LPM grabbed her while she was still in the store. Hella no-no, as she hadn't actually taken anything at that point. I know Mel, the ALPM was thinking "I have seen this girl steal so many times it won't matter", but it did. It also mattered that Jesse saw Mel grab Kelly. When Jesse saw this, he dropped the armful he had and yelled "let her go, i'll kill you.", which turned a simple shoplift into a robbery by adding the threat of lethal violence. Mel didn't let go, Jesse took a swing and it all ended up as a brawl on the floor in cosmetics, and me being lead agent the next day, by default. Jesse and Kelly both got away that day...

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     So, corporate replaced JD and Mel with Stephen and me, and essentially told us to blitz everyone. Any time Jesse and Kelly were seen, we were told to "nevermind the rules, blitz them." This also extended to any known subject, whether it was a drug user, a problem returner, or a known thief. They gave us a gloves off, no rules environment to allow us to let off some steam from the Jesse/Kelly incident. Hands down, this was the most fun 6 month stretch of my time as an LP agent. Short of instigating fights, we had no real rules, other than the all-purpose: "Use Good Judgement At All Times", which will fuck you up if you think about it too long. I was concerned with closing cases and making them stick, so that influenced my decision making as well, but not to have to stop at an arbitrary line made the job a lot easier, for a while.

     Eventually Jesse and Kelly came back in, and Stephen and I arrested Kelly, letting Jesse go for another day. While Kelly was in jail, Jesse tried to go at it solo, thinking he knew how far we were allowed to go. The look on his face as Stephen was chasing him down the middle of 6th avenue cursing furiously, was gold, Jerry, gold. Stephen chased Jesse down and tackled him, dragging him across the street and slamming him up against the wall. The police had already been called and were on their way. Before they could get there, Jesse started crying hard. And Stephen, peach of a man that he is, pulled out his phone, pushed Jesse's head back against the wall, and took an amazing portrait of Jesse crying his eyes out. This photo was my computer desktop for the rest of the year.

     A big reason for the gloves-off, blitz approach was the opiate epidemic in 2016 being a goddamn circus. Our city had, by this point, become an open air shooting gallery and it had bled into our store. Not wanting to take the low-brow route of putting combo locks on our restrooms, we just kept a close eye on whoever went into our bathrooms. If it was ever slow on the sales floor, I could always check out the bathroom if I wanted a bit of action. It was always a party in the mens room.

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     By the time Jesse got locked up, Stephen and I had worked to aggregate all of his shoplifts into a single charge, totalling over $90,000.00 in a year. A bit of internet sleuthing (Thanks Craigslist!) determined Jesse had been selling the Creed for half price out of a Starbucks in Belltown, meaning he had made around $45k that year off us. He also earned six years in jail, with the robbery compounding his sentence. His gf, Kelly, got three. I sincerely hope this time out kills the monkeys on their backs. It's happened...

     With Jesse out of commission, our team had earned a bit of reprieve. Corporate said to reign in the blitz, which I admit was difficult, but they made it a bit easier by allowing us to "hire up" and fill out the team with up to ten more members. Stephen took care of most of the interviews, and the other agents I worked the floor. Stephen had brought in a formal lead agent from Southcenter named Ashley.

     Ashley was an amazing agent whom I was familiar with from her entries into A.P.I.S, or 'Asset Protection Information System', our LP database. She had an amazing arrest record, no DWA's and was fiercely intelligent. She could be intimidating, both due to her physical stature and her quick mind, but she was also quite humble and funny as hell. Her first day was spent "shadowing" me. Basically just hanging out, walking around, showing her the store, pointing out known subjects and familiarizing her with the job.

     We had exited the store out the 5th Avenue doors, turning left and walking toward Pine Street. A left onto Pine and we're walking toward 6th Avenue, and as we're approaching see a man, who I recognize, naked from the waist down running across Pine along 6th avenue being pursued by three civilians and, no shit, four firemen. "Ashley, that was Scott M." I said. "Really?" she asked. "I am 100%." I assured her. I radioed our camera operator, "ESA, bring up 16 and for the love of god keep Scotty in frame." "Copy" came Treasure, our camera operator's reply.

     We watched as Scotts mob caught up with him and attempted to detain him. Scott wasn't having it, and was fighting with the civilians when the firemen just grabbed him and pushed him down. One sat on him. While Scotty was being used as a bench, I watched a man in a plain suit walk up, pulled out a taser, took a knee and zapped the shit out of Scott like four times. And Scott was still naked from the waist down, which had attracted every woman in the Forever 21 store all this had wound up playing out in front of. 

     I counted, and this response still impresses me, because 12 Seattle police cars came in from all directions. Scotty was loaded into a car and taken away, and Ashley and I went to figure out what we had just witnessed by retrieving all the video we could. Our store had over 400 cameras, interior and exterior. I figured we probably had video of the whole incident.

 

We did, and honestly it's the best movie I have seen in at least one year.

 

A bit of history on Scotty, whom we nicknamed 'The Rockstar', and who lived up to this moniker fully.

 

First, this is video of Scotty exactly one year before the incident just described. This is why we call him Rockstar.

 

You better believe there's more to come...

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     A guy like that, his priorities are fuckin' alien, man... Like, you'll never figure out his motivations, don't even try. Scotty was, among other things, a hard drug connoisseur. I mean that. Most drug users find their poison and stick with it. Not Scotty. That boy loved them all, equally. In addition to 'Rockstar' we also referred to Scott as a living science experiment. He liked heroin, meth, cocaine and crack, lsd, oxycontin, amphetamines, xanax, basically all drugs whatsoever. I wouldn't know how to tell if Scott was sober because I am fairly certain I have never seen him sober.

     Anyway, once the video retrieval was complete, I had a video that would go viral in a millisecond if I ever were allowed to post it online. Sadly, that video is proprietary, and posting it would mean my job. But, here is a brief description.

     Camera 16 is positioned above the north west corner of 6th Avenue and Pine Street, pointing at the top of a trash can. It is above this trash can that our scene opens. It's May 1st, and a typical spring morning in Seattle. The streets are dampening from the light rain falling and we see a city worker pushing a sidewalk cleaner past the trash can. Commuters are passing by our E-bar coffeeshop on their way to work. Among these commuters, Scott is, for whatever reason, walking around with no pants or underwear on. Naked from the waist down. He moves with a hunched over secrecy that looks like he seems to think is making him invisible. He comes from the east, crossing 6th avenue in that hunched-over, drugged out, invisible man lurch. As he crosses 6th, he see's our little trash can on the corner, and seems to think it would make a nice home. We see naked Scott lift his right leg and slip his foot first, then the rest of his naked leg into the trash can. Followed by the other leg, and he kind of wiggles down into the can. This can has a collar insert as a lid, and Scott was now wearing the thing like a tutu, and had apparently gotten stuck in the can. His knees had wedged him into the collar, which was tethered to the can with a cable he couldn't see and he is now fighting to get out of the can he crawled into. We see Scotty struggling with this diabolical trap and then we see him lose balance and fall out of the can, onto his back. The cable tether had snapped, and the collar was still around his knees. He tried to pull it up for a bit, dancing around with a steel tutu, eventually abandoning the thing. His attention then turns to a random commuter, specifically his backpack, which Scotty has decided should be his. As Scotty and this poor commuter struggle, another commuter see's the situation and runs to help. Since the rain had slickened the sidewalk fairly well, when he tried to stop he just slid into the other two and all three went down as if he'd slide-tackled them. Scotty was the first up, and he ran out into the street. A firetruck was at the other end of our block, near Olive street, and the firemen had taken notice of the shenanigans. They ran to help, and the two commuters led the chase.

 

This is about the point where Ashley and I walked into it, and really, that video is something I watch at least once a week.

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Now where were we....

     I'd hate for you to get the impression that only men shoplift. I know I mentioned Jesse's gf, Kelly, but there were some female operators that didn't rely on a man. The first one that springs to mind is Elissa. 

     Elissa was a twenty-something female, white, brunette. Quite pretty, but she had a monkey on her back that was growing exponentially, being fed horse every day. The effect this has on a persons visage can be charted as a fairly regular course. It starts all the way out at the end of ones extremities, and every dose allows that degradation to advance along some terribly predictable thoroughfares, namely the human intravenous system. "Hamburger Hands" or "Heroin Hands" is the descriptor we applied to these individuals, as their hands would invariable be red, covered in abrasions, and usually swollen and cracked. This is a sure sign of addiction, and of one that requires a syringe to alleviate. In addition to the monkey, Elissa carried around a fairly extensive knowledge of high fashion. She could walk by our door and take a glance in and immediately spot the single most expensive thing on the floor. Her fondness of handbags made her fairly predictable, and her adoration of all things Gucci made her easy to manipulate. 

     I'd become aware of Elissa from working the floor and from standing at the doors. The hands were an easy tell, so the first time I saw her I called her out for having Heroin Hands. Anyone with an addiction that far advanced was a moment away from doing something desperate, and I wasn't wrong. Her first trip into the store under my watch was quite profitable for her. I think I let her walk out with a sweatshirt. She thought it was free, but what she traded for that shirt was her ID. I had some great shots of her, and it only took about an hour to figure out her name. Once I had familiarized myself with her case file, all I had to do was wait, and I am really good at waiting.

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     During the time I was there, the store was undergoing a remodel, inside and out. Consequently, the exterior was engulfed in scaffolding. The armature of scaffolding is a funny thing, in that if you've walked past it repeatedly, your brain tends to regard the porous scaffolding as a solid wall, thereby blinding you to what may or may not be lurking within said scaffolding. I spent hours sitting, standing, lounging and climbing through the scaffolding. Finding places to observe the store from outside looking in.

     I was lurking in the scaffolding one day, and Elissa walked right past me, staring into the store at a mannequin that was holding an unsecured, unsensored Gucci handbag($4,900.00). I watched from the scaffolding while Elissa looked into the store, searching for me. I remained still and quiet as she approached the doors, not paying any attention to the scaffolding behind her. I was a good four feet from her as she opened the door and took a step inside. She walked up the stairs and approached the mannequin while I radioed ESA from inside. "Alissa just entered 5th, up to one. Approaching the mannequin, selecting the Gucci handbag. OK it's off the mannequin and she is heading down to Metro. Can I get an SPD to head down the 6th avenue stairs, I am going to follow her down the 5th staircase." At this time, we had an off duty police officer on our first floor due to a spate of grab and run's we'd had earlier in the month. The officer and I had been working together for a few weeks, and this was the most action I had been able to find him in a minute. 

     So, as Elissa was hitting the staircase up to 6th Ave, the officer was coming down the same stairs, and I was following her up. This guy knew her intent, but also knew things would go more smoothly if we didn't give her a chance to run. As Elissa looked up into the officers eyes, he held out a hand stopping her, then pointed at me behind her, saying nothing. Elissa looked behind her, saw me and smiled as she handed the bag to me. I pointed at the door, told her to use it. She did.

     She was back like a day or two later, and I had been having a stressful day. I saw her enter, watched her select and conceal three items and walk into a men's dressing room, so I decided to have some fun.

     Standing in the hall of the fitting rooms, after making sure she was the only person in there other than me, I very loudly called her by her full name, "Elissa ----, you have been trespassed from this store at least five times by me personally. I saw you select the blue hoody, the Nike shorts and the belt. The police have been called. (bluff) Hand me the three items you took in there and get out of the mens dressing room!"

     She came out pissed and actually yelled: "You don't have to use my whole name, asshole!"

     To which I responded, "You don't have to breathe. How about you go kick rocks?"

     Out Metro entrance and into the tunnel. Ain't seen her in a minute.

Edited by Boogerhead
smashed words
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I never got to apprehend Elissa. Whether because that was her last run, or she got popped somewhere else, I'll never know. She simply disappeared.

     Another female I remember was named Tabitha. She was a transient, and had an even bigger monkey riding her than Elissa. Her monkey was merciless, and she fed it hourly. Hamburger hands, furtive eyes, snailesque, in that she carried everything she owned on her back. I'd seen her hitting us in sunglasses, but the girl had no idea what to steal. She'd assess a rack of sunglasses that held Chanel, Gucci, Ray-Ban, Prada and other designer styles, and the nut-job would grab the $20.00 house brand. No resale value, and since we all knew her, she couldn't even try to return them.

     One winter day, Tabitha entered our store via the Pine Street East entrance, passing through our florist and hiding her backpack behind the florist counter. Our florist, upon noticing an abandoned backpack, called me. I had ESA review video to determine who dropped it, and was told it was Tabitha. So I picked up the pack and had ESA find her on video. When they found her, she was in sunglasses, pocketing a pair of Ray-Ban 'Wayfarer' glasses. She exited out 6th Avenue, and headed south to Pine Street to go retrieve her backpack, which I had locked in our office.

     Once Tabitha re-entered the store and noticed someone had taken her bag, the girl threw a very calculated fit in front of customer service. I responded, smiling. Tabitha is screaming "I want my motherfucking bag back NOOOOWWWW!!!!", and I am all smiles when I reply, "Oh, was that yours? We found an abandoned backpack, and in looking for ID, noticed some blackish, tarry looking substance and some syringes, so we called SPD. If you stick around, I think they'd really like to talk to you about the contents of "your motherfucking bag'". 

     As she was heading toward the doors again, I asked, "I don't suppose you'd consider giving the Ray-Bans back?"

     "Fuck you." was her two word response.

     I threw her bag in the dumpster, never having actually called the police.

 

     Tabitha never really got the hang of theft for profit. I think she just liked the attention it got her. After a couple years of flying solo, she hooked up with another known. A male named Christopher, who had changed his name legally to 'Tiger', so he could pretend we had no records on him. Funny kid, and one who had a working knowledge of what products you could take that would turn a profit on the street. Mainly coats and shoes, things he could sell to other transients or trade for favors. 

     Christopher/Tiger was pretty ok at getting into the store unnoticed, but had a habit of concealing in the fitting rooms, which made him easier to spot. Eventually, my camera operator Emelio was able to spot him outside the building and we could get out ahead of him. It got to the point where Emelio would see Tiger out on the street, alert me, and I would just hang out in coats waiting for my mark. Sometimes, i would let him in and walk up behind him and just tap him on the shoulder as a 'trespass reminder'. If he saw me, the game was off, it was that simple. Singly, Tiger & Tabitha were no problem, but when they got together they were an issue. Tabitha was great at creating distractions on the floor, and Tiger would be quick while she had everyones attention.

     After a couple runs like this, we knew to ignore Tabitha and look for Tiger.

     After Tiger was arrested, Tabitha stayed away for a while. I still see her on the street, and when she sees me, she smiles and waves. It's weird. Some know it's a game, some take it personally. Eddie, my first arrest, when he sees me on the street, he starts screaming and cursing... Really dumb. "You weren't so tough with the handcuffs on, Eddie."

     

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     'Cappy' was an older, white female. By older, I mean not in her twenties like Tabitha or Elissa. Cappy was mid fifties, maybe. Not quite a transient, but if she walked into a four star restaurant, they probably wouldn't seat her for an hour or so. Cappy dressed as inconspicuous as she could, it's just that all her garments were quite threadbare and stained. Looked fine from 50 feet, but at 5 the facade fell apart. Still, the only monkey on Cappy's back was a sad little alcoholic.

     I'd watched Cappy get arrested three or four times before I had a chance to introduce myself. She favored cosmetics. Skin creams, fillers, couple fragrances. Nothing huge, but consistent and repeated. That shit gets really tiresome. It's actually insulting after a while. 

     Anyway, my friend and fellow agent Lacey had called Cappy out over the radio, having spotted her in cosmetics, or 'cosmo', as we called it. Cappy had selected and concealed her make-up, and was making her way toward our Ebar, where she planned on exiting through, out into the street. So I went outside and waited, listening to Lacy narrate Cappy's moves. I was away from the cafe windows on the Pine Street corner, so Cappy wouldn't see me, and Lacey was following pretty far back because Cappy knew her. As Cappy hit the door, Lacey gave the green-light and I came around the corner just in time to hold the door open for Cappy as Lacey came up from behind. We allowed Cappy to cross the threshold before Lacey grabbed her. Cappy tried to break away from Lacey so I let go of the door and grabbed her other arm. She was pissed, and let me know it by stomping on my foot. I smiled as she looked through her own tears and into my eyes. The dumbass had just bruised her heel on my steel toes. Gotta love them Bellevue ST800's. 

     Cappy limped back as we escorted her to the detention room in handcuffs. Prior incidents, she had attacked Lacey with an umbrella. She spits, scratches, slaps, and all of it is ineffectual. Considering the make up she stole never did a thing for her appearance, she is another one of those folks that just steal for attention.

     Me?

     I'd get a hobby.

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"97, male. Blue jeans, black hoody. Mariners trident tattoo on his neck. Selected a Kenzo backpack, heading toward Pine West."

 

And thus I became aware of Brandon.

 

      Brandon was a heavy hitter meth head used to come up from south seattle every day. Kid liked designer, whatever it was. The Kenzo backpack he'd just selected carried a $500.00 price tag, and he was heading straight for the door like he owned it. I'd heard the call while I was in an elevator coming down to the first floor in the backstock area. I came out of the elevator flying, and caught sight of him as I came out of the backstock area.

     One thing I'd been told about Brandon was that he enjoys fighting. He looks for a reason to throw punches. I am not that way. I like to talk, and am kinda ok at it. Rather than rush the kid straight on, I came up from behind at a walking pace, and said at a conversational and friendly tone, "You know they don't want you in here, right Brandon?".

     By using his name, I had told him that I was working as LP for the store, and I knew he was on trespass. He looked at me and kept walking. 

     "Hey, Brandon... Can I get that bag?" This actually gives him pause. He turns around, slides the backpack down one arm and catches it before it slides off.

     "This MY bag." At least he's using words.

     "Nah, man. I got video of you pulling that off a mannequin downstairs."

     He looks at me, looks at the backpack.

     "Don't want this thing any fuckin' way." And throws it back into the store before he walks out onto the street.

 

     $500.00 recovery, trespass reminder.

 

 

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Jeremy was special. 

     I don't mean that in a sarcastic or ironic way. The kid was one of a kind. He had zero fucks to give, and got a laugh out of any reaction to his nonsense, good or bad. 5 foot 10ish, 16 year old African American who wore his hair au natural. The afro, besides looking swell, made him pretty easy to spot from afar. Jeremy was one of the rare repeat offenders who didn't have a favorite thing to steal.

     When I was still an ambassador, I had spotted Jeremy and called him out due to his erratic "shopping" method and furtive eyes. He'd palmed a watch on the Metro level, and had been wandering around the store leading a train of LP agents, ambassadors, and managers from the basement to the fourth floor. Still carrying the watch, (Diesel, $250.00) he entered the mens room. The assistant LP manager Ian and I followed him in just in time to see the stall door latch shut.

     Ian looked at me and shrugged. As he had left our sight, there was every reason to believe Jeremy had ditched the watch somewhere, so we quietly searched the bathroom while Jeremy was in the stall. As we looked, we began to hear metallic, banging sounds from within the stall. Jeremy was trying to get the electronic sensor off the watch, and having a hard time of it. Those things can be stubborn. The sounds convinced Ian and I that Jeremy had kept the watch, so we had the restroom "closed for maintenance", and we waited.

     After two or three minutes of clanging from within the stall, we heard a long rip augment the last clang, followed by a nearly psychotic giggle.

     Ian looks at me, raises an eyebrow, frowns.

     And the stall door clicks open and swings inward as Jeremy exits. As he sidles past us, we are dumbstruck by the fact that the Ralph Lauren pajama bottoms he is wearing are torn down the left leg from the hip to below the knee, and his junk is swinging freely. Kid is grinning like the Cheshire cat, almost daring us to apprehend. Since he hadn't left the store, and this was getting interesting, we just let him walk out of the restroom.

     Back down from the fourth floor, Jeremy is trying to ditch us on the escalator by running and passing people. ESA followed him on camera as he made his way all the way back to Metro level, menswear. Ian and I caught up as Jeremy was selecting an exact duplicate pair of the $45.00 Ralph Lauren pajama bottoms he'd ruined upstairs. Jeremy went into the fitting room, Ian and I waited outside. Jeremy changed into the new bottoms, leaving his old ones on the floor and pocketing the de-sensored watch.

     Finally, Jeremy exited the fitting room and I went in to look for anything he might have left. As Jeremy passed Ian, he pulled the watch out of his pocket and placed it on the cash wrap as he passed it on his way toward our 6th Avenue doors. While I was in the fitting room, I noticed something in the back pocket of the pajama bottoms Jeremy had traded up for.

     The screwball had left his wallet in the fitting room, containing his ID and about 60 dollars.

     Ian was following Jeremy up the staircase to the door when I caught up and handed Jeremy's wallet to him. Jeremy was pushing the door open when Ian lunged at him, causing him to bolt across the street. Ian stopped and yelled, "Don't you want your wallet, Jeremy?"

     Jeremy looked back over his shoulder as he ran, but didn't slow a bit.

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Santa Steve has a stalker.

     As the holidays approach, the store builds out "Santaland", and a store Santa poses for pictures and listens to the litany of things children want from him. As Santa needs breaks, and sleep, the store actually hired like 12 Santas. Santa Joe, Santa Brian, Santa Steve, Santa Chris, Santa Tom, you get the pattern. These guys would come back every year from November through Christmas to play Santa.

     Thing is, they're individuals, and underneath the beard and suit, can be recognized. Apparently, the year before I was hired, a certain middle-aged white lady had taken a liking to Santa Steve. Santa Steve didn't tell us about her when he started the next year. Probably because he didn't really think the lady would come back a year later and recognize him.

     Santa Steve was wrong.

     I don't know when she first showed up, but Steve did. At first, she'd stand across the street and peer in through the window. After a few days of spotting her outside, Santa Steve called in to LP about his stalker. It's not that she really frightened him, but anyone goofy enough to stalk a store Santa might also be goofy enough to bring some sort of weapon with them. He pointed her out from our office, on the video cameras. We got the pictures and started a file. Santa Steve didn't know her name, so we had very little information to operate on.

     Eventually Santa Steve's stalker came into Santaland, and it was on. As she had no children with her, her request to sit upon Santa Steve's lap was curtly denied. A call was placed to LP, and I responded.

     Having never addressed a stalker, I was unsure how to approach her. I felt she was probably not the most stable individual I was going to encounter, so kid gloves might be in order. 

     She wound up being surprisingly compliant. I asked her if she had ever been trespassed from our property, and she answered honestly, that yes, she had. As the incident in question had occurred one year ago, and our standard trespass was two years, I gently reminded her that she was not allowed on our property for at least another year. I asked her to leave the property, and she did... but she came back every day until christmas. She never came back inside the store, but would stare at Santa Steve through the window for hours, or until LP told her to take a walk. Still, she made Santa Steve really nervous, so we escorted Santa from Santaland to the employee locker room, and to his car every night until christmas.

     I never did get a name out of her.

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I'd been working the Pine St. West door for about four hours, and I had to pee. By the time I arranged coverage for a spot of relief, I was dancing in place when they got there. I skipped down the stairs to the Metro level, and danced my way to the men's room. 

     After taking care of business and zipping up, I was washing my hands and looking in the mirror, which reflects the toilet stalls. Through the crack in the stall door I noticed a flash of orange. That particular shade of orange, it gets your attention. It's almost hunter's orange, but with a touch more red than yellow. It is the orange of biohazard and medical waste. It's the color of a syringe cap, and I know what they're doing in there, but need a little confirmation before I release the hounds.

     I step closer to the stall, but am facing the exit. In my peripheral vision I scan through the crack in the door by the locks, not the hinges. I see the spoon, and the black liquid therein, and the syringe dips into it.

     I remain quiet long enough to see the guy pop the needle into his vein, and at precisely the moment he wants to push the plunger in I attack the stall door with the hilt of my pocket knife. 

     BANG! BANG! BANG! "Store Security, YOU NEED TO LEAVE IMMEDIATELY. SPD HAS BEEN CALLED AND ARE EN ROUTE. GET YOUR DRUGS OUT OF OUR STORE NOW!" I lied. Never called the police. Into my radio I transmit, loud enough for the junkie in the stall to hear: "ESA, Bring up camera 13 and get a face shot of the next person to leave Metro Mens."

"Copy."

     The stall door swings open, and this kid is looking at me like I am insane, which is how I prefer they think of me. Keeps things flowing. Then the stall next to him opens and I see he had a friend next door. This can get dicey sometimes, but these guys were riding the slow horse and already thought I might be insane.

     Kid number one keeps looking at me and says, "It's my insulin, man."

     "Really?" I say, "They're making black insulin now?"

     Kid number one grins, and i shit you not, kid number two says, "That's racist!!!"

     I look at kid number two, a total mouth-breathing acne farm, and I say "You're an idiot."

     Kid number one looks at kid number two and says "Shut the fuck up, It is not. Let's just get out of here."

     "Good call." I say and escort the two out onto 6th avenue.

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"Hey, 0ne-0ne, come up." It's ESA in my ear, 1-1 is my call number, my sign.

"Go for 0ne-0ne." I call back.

"Brandon's back."

"Great. You going to tell me where, or are we playing hot and cold?"

"Metro, furnishings. Has another backpack."

"Goddamnit! On my way."

 

      I run down the 5th avenue staircase and stop at the bottom. Men's shoes are on my right, in between me and men's furnishings where Brandon is. Into my mic I ask ESA, "Any more selections?"

"Nah, just the backpack."

     It's not the Kenzo again, that'd be too predictable. THis time Brandon has found a Givenchy that was unlocked. Actually, I ought to be thanking Brandon, as he is finding all the gaps in our system. This thousand dollar backpack ought to have been locked down, so I will have to train a salesperson in after I make this recovery from Brandon. 

     Still in men's shoes, I see Brandon across the aisle in furnishings, trying to look nonchalant about his desire to be out into the tunnel. As he already knows me, I am sneaking up toward the tunnel exit so he can't see me. I backwall it all the way around until I get behind the column next to the exit, and I wait. 

     "ESA, let me know when he is approaching the metro tunnel exit. You see me?" I radio.

     "Yeah, I got ya."

     "Cool."

 

     Brandon is still shopping in furnishings, but has made his way to the edge of the department, and right as he steps out onto the aisle that leads to the exit he wants, ESA is in my ear, "He's on the hard aisle, heading toward metro exit. Passing the last mannequin now."

     And I step out from behind the column with my hand outstretched, palm up toward Brandon. He sees me, doesn't even skip a beat. Slides the backpack off his arm and hands it to me as he exits the store.

 

     "Thanks, Brandon. Don't come back."

     $1,000 recovery, trespass reminder.

 

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     Michael was really fond of heroin and Gucci tee shirts. Addicted to both, and it was sometimes difficult to tell which one was worse for him. I mean, the heroin, obviously, but he stole the Gucci to get the smack, so they were kind of the same addiction. He was always nice, polite even. But he was always high, too.

 

     The first time I met him was in the men's restroom on our fourth floor. A customer had reported some strange sounds coming from the ADA stall. The ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act stall is often called the "Handicap Stall", but not ours. Ours was the ADA stall, and it was a favorite place to shoot up for many junkies. Like I have said before, there's always some one to watch in the restrooms...

 

     I walked into the men's room, looked under the ADA stall door and saw an utterly derelict pair of converse tied onto some of the most abused legs I have ever seen. Abscesses, scars, burst capillaries and weeping wounds. Then I saw the flash of orange and I attacked the door. He was slow to leave, but cordial on the walk out. Someone recognized him on camera, I think it was our LPM, and told me to remind Michael that he was trespassed from our property for another year and a half, so I did. And he tells me he is going to clean up, enroll in school and I would never see him again.

 

Any bets on how long he could stay away?

 

     Not even 24 hours. I had kicked him out around  5 pm, and he walked in about 10:15 the next morning. I had seen him on the street when I went in that morning, as I do, the long way, and had told my camera operator Emelio to keep an eye our for him. Emelio had spotted Michael walking out of Pacific Place, the mall across 6th avenue from our store. Funny thing was, Michael was coming out of their fire escape, which ought to have sounded an alarm when he entered the stairwell, and again when he exited. The alarms were silent when Michael exited  the mall, which means he or someone he knew shunted their alarm system. It isn't difficult to do, especially at Pacific Place.  I had been a projectionist at that same mall about 20 years earlier, and had shunted the fire escape alarm that led from my projection booth to the roof, so I could smoke.

     Michael crossed the street, and walked right into our store. Emelio and I watched, me on the floor and him on cameras as michael walked through women's shoes, into and out of the bridge handbags, and into the Gucci boutique.

 

     I walked in right behind him, as I had been following him pretty close, and said "Hey, Michael."

     He just looked at me with a sheepish grin, I pointed at the 5th ave exit, and he used it.

     Two trespass reminders in one 24 hour period.

     And he was easy...

Edited by Boogerhead
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The 5 elements of an shoplift are:

 

1.) Entry. Agent sees a subject enter the store, and spots an indicator. 

     Indicators can be many things. Furtive eye movement, erratic shopping, empty bags, "Heroin Hands" (while not an indicator of theft, an indicator of addiction, which tends to inspire theft.), sensor removal devices, anything that might indicate an intent to steal.

 

2.) Approach. Agent and camera operator should be working in tandem at this point, and the approach, or entry into the department should be on video, as well as the rest of the subjects visit.

 

3.) Selection. Subject sees and selects item for theft.

 

4.) Concealment. Subject conceals items previously selected. From the moment of concealment, constant visual sight must be maintained. Subjects can easily ditch an item, and if you lose sight of them, you lost sight of the item. If they ditch the item and you make a detention without arrest, you are fired. It is best to have 2 or 3 agents on the floor, and a camera operator all communicating on concealed radio transmitters. If you triangulate properly, there will always be at least two sets of eyes on the subject.

 

5.) Exit. Agents and camera operator have maintained constant visual surveillance from the point of concealment as the subject passes all points of sale and approaches the exit. Usually, other agents or ambassadors will have posted up outside whichever exit the subject approaches. Sometimes, you just have to go it alone. As long as the camera operator gets it on video, you can usually cover your ass from any claims made by the detained subject.

 

     Once the subject crosses the threshold, an arrest is allowed and encouraged as long as the lead agent has maintained constant visual and given the "Green Light" for the waiting personnel to move. And the last part always goes sort of sideways, but is always a little fun and exciting. 

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     Just hit the floor at the beginning of my shift, having a new agent shadow me for the day, and a call comes over the radio about drug use in the Metro mens 55(restroom). Walk into the bathroom real quiet like, and listen for a second. I hear splashing in the stall nearest me, and when I kneel down to check the footwear, I see a dingy yet familiar pair of converse attached to an even dingier pair of legs. 

 

Michael's back.

 

     As he is violating a trespass order by even being in here, I figure I'll fuck his day up. In order to gain a full awareness of what I am about to step in, I peek through the crack in the door, and am fully disgusted. In disbelief, I pull my head up over the stall door to get the full picture, and my disgust is total.

 

     Because what I see, is Michael, abscess legs, heroin hands and all, washing his collection of syringes out in our toilet. It's not something you can unsee, and will fully turn your stomach if you have an iota of humanity left within. 

 

     I hit the stall door with my most aggressive "cop knock", and say "Michael, that is the single most disgusting thing I have ever fucking seen. You're breaking the law even being in here, and I swear to god if you don't get the fuck out of here with that shit, you won't know what happened. You'll just wake up handcuffed to a bench. SPD is on the way." I looked at the new agent, Jason and winked. I never called the police. A bluff was enough to get Michael moving.

 

     Michael was totally embarrassed, but he kept his syringes. I mentioned there was a needle exchange, but he said they'd cut him off. I don't know how one gets cut off from the needle exchange, but someone who "cleans" their rig in the shitter can probably find a way.

 

 

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     In a retail environment, whether it's a department store or a grocery, there is a certain amount of what we call "Shrinkage", or items lost to theft. It is an industry secret that a little over 60% of shrinkage originates internally, meaning it was stolen by an employee. the remaining 40% of shrinkage is external, meaning someone came in off the street and shoplifted. So, you could catch every single shoplifter that comes in off the street, and still not reduce shrinkage by half.

 

     At some point, you have to watch your colleagues, and it isn't easy. Sure, if it's someone you don't like, it's fun. But it never is. It's always someone you like, someone you have established rapport with, someone you might even admire. 

 

     Observing fellow employees only feels dirty for, like, the first hour or two. Even if it lasts longer than that, when you do see a colleague steal, it is way more personal. The externals, they aren't aware of what you've invested in the store, in the relationships you've built and the trust you have earned. But the employees do, and it is especially insulting when they take advantage of that knowledge. Not all are malicious, some steal out of necessity, some from madness or substance abuse, but most are just opportunists who haven't learned that some opportunities are better left unexplored.

     

     The first employee I had to help arrest was a guy named Tariq. Tariq was an employee when I started, and after my first year, I had gotten pretty familiar with him. Tariq was a guitar player, as am I, and he carried his guitar to work with him every day. I didn't think too much of it, as I was kinda impressed by his drive. "I should do that..." I thought, imagining all the practice I could squeeze into the work day. 

 

     After a while, though, I noticed that in addition to the guitar, Tariq usually had a bag full of clothes on his back, and, come to think of it, I never actually saw Tariq enter the store. He was just always there. So we observed Tariq on video one shift. As Tariq was in logistics, he worked a graveyard shift and had full access to the store. Following him on the camera system required both a mental map of the store, but a full knowledge of each of our over 400 cameras in the building.

 

     After an hour of observation, Tariq had been observed stealing clothes.

     After the entire shift, we realized he had been living in the store.

 

     Now, this might be unbelievable, but it is what it is. There are many, many areas one can disappear into in our flagship. Tariq had chosen a remote corner of the sub-basement, and had hidden his tracks quite well. We observed for a week, tallying up his theft and annotating when he left the store, which wasn't often. Usually, just to the drug store for some supplies, then back down to the sub-basement. After his shift ended, he went into the employee break room for 6 hours, then down to the SB when no one was looking.

 

    That was the most difficult conversation I had to have with anyone. It didn't help that he had developed a meth addiction and was high as a kite when it went down, and by the time Tariq told me "God told me to come in here.", the police were already enroute. 

     After SPD escorted him off the property, he tried four or five times over the next week to get back into the store, until, finally, SPD had enough and arrested him.

     

     I haven't seen him for over a year.

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