Fenton Police Surprise Retail Fraud Suspects with Overnight Lock-up
Department is one of few that continues to use holding cell for shoplifting suspects.
When suspects receive a notice to appear in court on retail fraud charges from the Fenton Police Department, they often expect to head home afterwards.
But that usually isn’t the case.
The department is one of a few that utilizes a holding cell and keeps those suspects overnight.
“I don’t think there are any other places in Genesee County that do it and I think it is an effective deterrent,” said Fenton Police Chief Rick Aro. “People are surprised. They expect to get the ticket and be sent on their way. That doesn’t happen here. It is a shock for some of them.”
The holding cell was built in the 1970s and has been in use in Fenton ever since. Aro said because of shrinking budgets and manpower not many departments use them anymore.
“There is some more staffing issues and a few more hoops to jump through, but I am in favor of using it,” Aro said.
The most popular place in Fenton for retail fraud, Walmart, released a report earlier this year showing the Fenton location with retail fraud numbers lower than past years and lower than nearly every Walmart location is southeast Michigan. The theft report compares total sales to amount of merchandise stolen. Aro declined to give specific numbers and Fenton Walmart officials declined to comment.
“I think it’s partly because of their security and because of our policy to send a police officer to the site to bring them back for booking and often holding them overnight,” Aro said.
Behind Walmart, the second biggest source of retail fraud in Fenton is VG’s, according to Aro.
“I don’t think it’s a big deterrent, but it might stop some people from coming back and trying it again,” said VG’s assistant store director Randy Sage.
Aro said there is no standard routine or items that are taken from stores. He said electronics, specifically video games, have been the hot item lately. Sage said liquor and meat are the items most stolen from VG’s. Aro said he sees a lot of shoplifters that steal to support a drug habit.
Aro said the cell is also used to hold any assaultive crime suspects and drunk drivers overnight, along with any felony suspects, who also have the opportunity to post bond.
The holding cell will continue to be used at the Fenton City Council voted for the Fenton Police Department to keep their own dispatch system, instead of merging with Genesee County, in December 2011.
Fenton operates its 911 center with $150,000 in annual fees it receives, collected by cell phone companies from phone users. There are two full-time dispatchers, and the rest are part-time, Aro said. The dispatchers also observe the holding cell on the Fenton Police Department.
Crews installed Fenton’s new dispatch equipment in May.
The equipment will allow people to contact 911 via cell phone text messaging, photographs, video and streaming video. The ability to text 911 could arrive around September 2012, depending on when the state implements it.
"Texting has become so popular," Aro said. "Someone could be at the scene of a crime and send us a picture of a suspect's vehicle, which could be passed on to patrol vehicles."
The new equipment will also allow people to call 911 from their computer and give the police department the ability to locate cell phones during 911 calls.