The upswing in thefts has South Mississippi law enforcement on alert, especially D’Iberville Police with the new Promenade now built.
Jeannine Schexnayder manages Watermelon Patch in the D’Iberville Shopping center. She said it’s surprising how many shoplifters try to take stuff from the store.
“We have seen a far amount of shrinkage and theft. We cannot keep enough people in the store to watch and keep it under control,” Schexnayder said.
Schexnayder blames the rise in retail theft on the crumbling economy.
“When they don’t have money for Christmas gifts and things, they will resort to do things to make sure their little ones get things for Christmas.”
D’Iberville Police Captain Keith Davis agrees the lack of cash is a driving factor.
“The economy is in bad state right now, and people are getting desperate. The more desperate they get, the more we see shoplifting,” Captain Davis said.
Davis said police will have zero tolerance for shoplifting, and the department has a plan in place to combat the problem. The plan is called “Cop and Shop.” Police said it helps puts more eyes in shops and more police cars in the area.
“We are putting plain clothes police officers in the stores, and they are walking around the stores looking for shoplifters,” Davis said. “We are also increasing our patrols in the parking lots as a deterrent measure.”
Davis said so far there has not been a large volume of shoplifting calls at the center. He said part of the reason is all the stores also have a unified security plan.
“If someone goes into Target and gets involved in criminal activity, Target will call Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Dick Sporting Goods will call Marshalls, so that is a great partnership with these merchants.”
The extra protection is welcomed by Schexnayder because she feels shoplifting is a costly crime.
“It is taking money out of the pocket of the owner. It takes money out of the pocket of the workers, and it increases the tag on what I have to sale. The bottom line is everybody pays more in the long run.”
Juan Huerta called 911 himself and confessed to both murders. He told police he found his wife with Juan J. Gamez and shot them both to death.
Police also learned that Huerta worked as a security guard for a company called Magnum Force Security. On top of that, he’s also a felon, convicted of criminal negligent homicide in 1998.
“Because he has a conviction for criminal negligent homicide he isn’t eligible to own a gun or possess a gun, much less be licensed by a private security company,” said Hidalgo County Sheriff, Lupe Trevino.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS searched for Huerta in the DPS database of certified security guards. There are no search results for his name and date of birth, which means he’s not accredited by the state, so we tracked down the man he was working for to find out why he hired Huerta.
“Everything is legal. His record is clean. That’s all that’s needed to work security,” said Adrian Garcia, owner of Magnum Force Security.
Garcia says he ran a background check on Huerta and he says his company never issued a gun to Huerta. Still, authorities will be referring this case to DPS. They want to know how Huerta slipped through the cracks.
But with a 15-year background in the New Haven Police Department, preceded by two years as Yale University security officer, the former lieutenant detective who also served four years in the Marine Corps quickly devised a strategy.
Prior to McCormick, the private school on Christian Street was protected by outsourced watch guards who patrolled only at night. Now, it’s guarded by a community safety department of nine officers and five parking attendants who carry out routine vehicle, bike and foot patrols.
“We go 24/7, 365; we’re on call,” said McCormick, resting in his North Main Street residence, as scanner alerts chimed in. “Our function is prevention. It really is prevention more than apprehension. The people who work for me are not police officers; they’re the eyes and ears of police and fire.”
In the past 32 years, the officer who served as Robert and Ted Kennedy’s official police detail during their New Haven visit, has coordinated efforts with local fire and police authorities while high profile students including the Prince of Bhutan and Ivanka Trump attended the school (both were pretty smart about being safe, he said), visitors such as former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis came and a drug incident in 1984 resulted in the expulsion of fourteen students.
However, according to McCormick, two of the most important aspects of the job are protecting students and their possessions as well as tending to campus faculty, many of whom live on campus – making the job much different from work in New Haven.
But by the end of next month, the man whom local authorities refer to as a true gentleman will be stepping down after three decades of service and leaving the position and department he created in somebody else’s hands. “I just felt it was time,” said McCormick, 73.
Police Chief Douglas Dortenzio has known McCormick since his New Haven days and has worked with him for the past 19 years.
“It’s been a great working relationship,” said Dortenzio of the Choate department’s interaction with local police. “For the most part they’re autonomous – they relieve us of a great burden in that regard.”
McCormick has led police and fire departments on walking tours of the campus and Dortenzio said there have been occasions where police have consulted with the school over security related issues, in confidence.
“They’ll tell us what to do and we’ll do it,” McCormick said.
Stephen Farrell, Choate’s dean of faculty, jokes that McCormick’s job is probably much easier now than it was in the late 1970s and 1980s when the culture was much different and perhaps a bit more intense, but other aspects such as knocking down and consolidating upper campus dorms, lowering the student population from more than 1,000 to 850 and placing markers on campus property, have also contributed. Additionally, his political skills and dealings with the mayor’s office and town officials have been among his prime assets to the school, said Farrell, who has known McCormick for 31 years.
While bittersweet, the West Haven native and second youngest of 14 children is looking forward to a new life of rest, golf, community service and whatever else comes up. “I don’t know where the time has gone,” he said.