- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Prince George’s County merchants have joined police and prosecutors in cracking down on credit scammers, pickpockets, thieves and other criminals during the Christmas shopping season.

“This partnership strengthens our business community and protects consumers as they shop in the county this holiday season and beyond,” State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said yesterday.

The Holiday Crime Abatement Program started during the Thanksgiving weekend but planning began about 11 months ago.

About 85 officers who typically perform administrative duties in police stations are now working part-time and undercover in shopping centers and stores, as part of the program.

Officials said each of the county’s police districts will have a point of contact so merchants and shoppers can quickly report such crimes as thefts, credit card fraud, bad checks, shoplifting and pawn operations, in which thieves often convert stolen merchandise into quick cash.

Police Chief Melvin C. High said theft and fraud by organized groups and repeat offenders are costly and a major concern for retailers.

“Partnerships such as this one help us take control of problems that affect the entire region,” he said.

The Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation and the Maryland Retail Association are also participating in the program, which will include posters and other crime-prevention literature for storekeepers and shoppers.

“We have a lot of experienced people who can help the police and the state’s attorney’s office,” said Tom Saquella, president of the retail association. “The benefit will be a reduction in losses for our retailers and greater protection for shoppers against retail theft and fraud.”

Kwasi Holman, president of the Economic Development Corporation, said less fraud and theft will improve economic development in the county.

“This is exciting … because it demonstrates once again how deeply committed business and government leaders are to the economic growth and vitality of the county,” he said.

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