A.L.E.R.T. sends a clear message to people who are involved in illegal business activity in Shelby County. This specialized team was originally developed out of a group of interested officers in the Sheriff’s Detective Division and Uniform Patrol. Regular monthly meetings between area Retailers, Loss Prevention Managers, and various Law Enforcement agencies encourage communication and support of A.L.E.R.T. Since its inception, this initiative has grown into a nationwide model, with A.L.E.R.T. meetings all over the United States.
The A.L.E.R.T. deputies specialize in shoplifting, stolen property, construction thefts, pirated movies & music, music albums, scrap metal theft & counterfeited clothes & jewelry
A.L.E.R.T., which stands for (Area Law Enforcement and Retailers Team) was formed in 2004 in Memphis, Shelby County, TN by the Shelby County Sheriff's Office. A.L.E.R.T. is staffed by Shelby County Sheriff’s Deputies. A Lieutenant serves as commander of the unit.
The unit’s primary role is the investigation of crime involving organized retail theft (ORT) but also includes identity theft investigations, fraud and forgery investigations, embezzlement, criminal seizures, & prosecution of crimes related to counterfeit trademarked products such as clothing, fashion accessories, and illegally copied music / video products & scrap metal thefts.
The program is intended to provide a partnership between law enforcement, the banking industry & the retail community in order to combat related crime. This same philosophy exists in many other markets around the country. In many areas, involvement in A.L.E.R.T. is merely an extension of existing programs or existing relationships between law enforcement agencies & LP departments. Involvement in A.L.E.R.T. is voluntary and each market is responsible for developing their own focus and actions. In many areas, major retailers such as Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Sears, JC Penny, Kroger, Dollar General & Target have been very instrumental in helping to form local groups. The A.L.E.R.T. has established a strong relationship with the Memphis Area Homebuilders Association in combating all types of construction thefts.
Organized and random retail theft accounted for $35 Billion in loss to retailers in the United States in 2011. Ultimately, it is the consumer that pays for this loss, in part, through higher prices.
A.L.E.R.T. developed a website (www.usalert.org) to enable law enforcement agencies, banking institutions, retailers / loss prevention staff, scrap metal recyclers, and homebuilders to sign up. The website has forums for each state and individual forums for any market that would like to establish new topics, similar to a newsgroup website. The forums are set up so that any member can view or post information on incidents or topics. The postings are text messages, but photos or scanned items (such as copies of checks, booking photos, and surveillance photos) can be included in the post.
There are two types of postings
- Information on apprehended suspects.
- Requests for identification of unknown suspects based on still images from CCTV or other information such as license plates. There are future plans to enable small video clips to be uploaded and viewed.
The website also has a membership list of Law Enforcement Officers, Banking Institutions, Security Agencies and Loss Prevention Representatives which is broken down by City & State. The membership contact list is an excellent source for finding assistance from others. The website is fully supported and funded by the SCSO at no cost to members.
- Provide a high-tech method to fight organized retail theft (ORT) and consumer fraud at a minimal cost.
- The development of an intelligence databank as well as a nationwide contact databank.
- To coordinate investigative efforts between retailers, banking institutions, area homebuilders, metal (scrap) recyclers and law enforcement in an attempt to reduce economic crimes in our communities .
- Provide a useful contact list to enable members to more easily conduct investigations which not only encompass their local area, but also other areas across the country.
- To make law enforcement agencies aware that misdemeanor crime offenders can often provide information which can lead to larger scale organized theft and fraud groups.
– Membership & Partnerships
Membership in A.L.E.R.T. is initiated by eligible & approved persons going to the A.L.E.R.T. website and signing up to become a member. Within a week the application is reviewed and once approved access to the website is gained.
In addition, interested retailers may also find out more information about partnering with A.L.E.R.T. by contacting the A.L.E.R.T. Commander via email .