US law enforcement’s fight against burglary would be ‘minimal’

Image copyright Google Image caption The group also fights land and sea smuggling operations

The organisers of the main sheriffs association in the United States have denied allegations it is helping slow down law enforcement efforts to combat the rise in theft.

Sheriffs from around the country attended the organisation’s annual convention in Las Vegas last month.

Senior Trump administration officials had said the sheriffs’ number one priority was to prevent the rise in “entertainment” retail theft.

The organisation points out it is already fighting those crimes.

Chief investigator Steve Grey said the recent effort to curb shoplifting “is just going to be minimal, as compared to the effort that’s already being undertaken”.

An administration official said in June at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland that the United States has a “culture of theft”.

The government said it was implementing “sweeping” changes to the way it tackles crime, such as changing the framework for how crime statistics are compiled to make it easier to fight growing offences like healthcare and prescription drugs theft.

White House deputy homeland security adviser Sara Hottman said the owners of the health, insurance and financial services industries support the crackdown.

“We have a retail theft problem that is costing the US economy billions of dollars every year,” she said.

The National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) met the US vice-president Mike Pence at the convention to address that claim.

Image copyright Getty Image caption Chief Steve Grey says the NSA is a much bigger organisation than the National Retail Federation (NFF)

The NSA has just under 1,400 members, compared to the National Retail Federation’s 1.4 million member.

Image copyright Getty Image caption He says the NSA has got into gun control, cannabis legalization and immigration

Tiffany Richey-Dietz, chief of staff to NSA president Phil Owen, wrote to reporters afterwards: “The claim is based on a flawed representation of past events.”

The group says its priorities have not changed and are far broader than attempts to stop theft.

The NSA has “made recent inroads on other issues, such as land and sea smuggling, ” says the organisation’s website.

“These efforts have affected the fight against illegal immigration, overseen federal drug interdiction efforts, and secured a ban on assault rifles.”

Image copyright Getty Image caption Robert Shuman of the National Sheriffs’ Association says the sheriff’s network is often more informed than other groups about the differences between burglaries and thefts

The president of the FBI’s Boston division, Douglas Foy, said that given the differing responsibilities and jurisdictions of sheriff’s departments “there are significant differences between them and the FBI, and in each case, the solution will be different”.

“But my hope is that we can find ways to work together that all benefit the US citizens,” he told reporters.

Ivan Fuentes, chief of police in Palm Springs, California, says organised crime groups like the Mexican cartels can often infiltrate suburban neighbourhoods and have freedom of movement.

“It’s hard to detect these guys, especially if they are quietly operating,” he said.

He told the BBC the US government needs to do more to stop non-violent crime with powerful weapons, adding: “I don’t believe you can stop it, in my opinion, at any kind of an arms control solution.”

Chief Steve Grey has been heading the NSA since March and says many of its big roles are carried out with little publicity.

His team fights gun trafficking in the West Coast regions of California, the Great Lakes and Canada.

The NSA is also fighting looting and drug trafficking in Mexico and has launched a campaign in major cities to raise public awareness of drug smuggling.

Its goal was to raise $10m to fund the campaign by organising several one-day rallies around the country.

It has also called for Washington to provide funding for civilian monitors of drug running operations.

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