Mar 26, 2013 2:02 AM by Lupita Murillo
TUCSON - Cigarette thefts, may seem like a petty crime but they're costing retailers big bucks.
Thieves are walking into stores, especially convenience stores and loading up. Tucson Police Detective Mike Gurr says, "You have people making $500 and $600, or more per theft."
News 4 obtained pictures from Tucson Police showing a man grabbing cigarettes from behind the counter. A clerk is next to the thief, and can't get away. Detective Gurr says, "The safety of the clerk is now in jeopardy rather than somebody just running out the door."
In Januray, Detective Gurr arrested 25 -year old- Neal Cole. He says Cole is responsible for stealing $9,000 worth of cigarettes over a three month period. "This particular thief entered every single time with his own trash bag and he would take as many cigarettes as he could." Cole sits in the Pima County Jail. "His need for the money was to support a drug habit." Tucson police say, he plead guilty to two counts of burglary and one count of theft. The rest of the charges were dismissed.
Jim Lamendola owns a convenience store on West Grant Road. Unlike other major retailers who don't chase thieves he does. "If you steal from my store, I'll go after you."
He also calls police. But in the 2 1/2 years he's had the store he's never had a cigarette theft or many other thefts at all. "That's because we carry, it's a deterrent to the thieves."
Lamendola carries a handgun, and so do some of his employees. All of them he says have permits and they've all gone thru training.
He says he owns a small business, and can't afford to lose merchandise. "It takes me 18 cases of beer to recover one stolen one."
Lamendola says he's never used his gun, but he has pulled it out. He also has mace and has used that several times.
Stealing smokes may be profitable however, it's also considered a felony, and along with the crime, comes the possibility of prison time.